Since you are here, you are probably interested in VPNs and internet privacy. As such, you may have already seen the terms ‘Five Eyes’, ‘Nine Eyes’, or ‘Fourteen Eyes’ before, here or elsewhere.
If you have been wondering what those terms are and want to find an answer, you have come to the right place.
Today, we are going to describe exactly what the ‘eyes’ mean, what you should know about them, and how to best avoid them.
What are all these eyes you are talking about?
To put it bluntly and simply, these terms refer to international surveillance programs. For most people in the world, international surveillance existed only in the movies or in the minds of conspiracy theorists.
After Edward Snowden leaked all those documents, however, the truth came to the light. Now, we know that numerous countries in the world have been spying on millions of people worldwide for years.
The extent of this surveillance is just massive. Dozens of countries, millions of people, a number of international agencies, all of them involved in widespread and often illegal surveillance of people justified by mottos of national security and the like.
Who are the Five Eyes?
The Five Eyes are the countries composing the original alliance which vowed to share intelligence. They consist of:
- The US
- The UK
- New Zealand
As you will see on Wikipedia, the original alliance can be traced right after World War II when the Allies decided to share military intelligence and reach common goals. Back then, the USA and the UK made the aptly named UKUSA Agreement.
Of course, as you can probably understand, it wasn’t long before the two countries started to see the hidden benefits of such a relationship and started to expand it. For instance, the US was very keen on including Canada during the Cold War due to the country’s proximity to the Soviet Union.
Today, these countries alone spy on basically the entire world. In fact, each of those countries has several different agencies working together to ensure that not a single piece of information is lost.
Who are the Nine Eyes?
The Nine Eyes are simply an extension of the original alliance. It includes all Five Eyes countries, plus:
- The Netherlands
Who are the Fourteen Eyes?
Again, the Fourteen Eyes are another extension of the original alliance. It includes every country mentioned before, plus:
Allegedly, the Fourteen Eyes countries have simply agreed to share military intelligence. Of course, this is simply the official stance whereas the truth might be entirely different.
As just an example, Germany seems to desperately want to join the Five Eyes club but even a former chief of the NSA has said that this would be impossible and not for any lack of trying.
Are there any other countries involved?
There are definitely more countries involved, though not in any official agreement. For example, the 2013 leaks showed that the NSA was happy to share intelligence data with Israel through Unit 8200, a similar agency.
What kinds of surveillance programs are happening?
The reach and scope of the international surveillance programs is impossible to grasp, even with all the leaks provided by people like Edward Snowden. However, we do know that several programs exist, even if their existence was sometimes denied by certain officials.
For instance, we know that ECHELON, a program originally conceived during the Cold War, is now being used to intercept communications between billions of people around the world.
As another example, the PRISM program has been used extensively by companies like the NSA to gather intelligence from internet companies in the country such as Microsoft and Google.
In the US, the War on Terror, which included things like Protect America Act, gave these intelligence agencies free reign to spy on pretty much anyone they wanted without having to go through legal courses, like the justice system, to obtain official requests and warrants.
So what should I do?
Whenever possible, you should avoid having any business dealings with countries that belong to the Fourteen Eyes when it comes to your privacy.
This, of course, includes your VPN use. If you use a VPN server that is located in one of those countries or is affiliated with those countries and their intelligence allies in any way, then you risk your private communications and Internet use being collected by intelligence agencies.
The age-old argument here is that “if you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t worry”. Whether you agree with this argument or not, you may still not want your private dealings to be intercepted by anyone else.
So next time you wish to get a VPN subscription, you should think very hard about what you want to do with it and what jurisdiction that company is under.
We believe that this covers what the “eyes” countries are and why you should be aware of what they are doing. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, then share your thoughts with us right away!