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Online privacy is rightfully becoming an increasingly important issue in the modern world. We’re all spending more time online than ever before. We’re also doing banking, making purchases, sharing important information, and more, all over the internet, so it’s only natural that people want to be as safe and protected as possible.
People also want to know how private their connections and data really are, and that’s why we see terms like ‘5 Eyes’, ‘9 Eyes’, and ‘14 Eyes’ appearing so frequently when discussing privacy, but what do all of these strange terms actually mean?
Well, 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes are all terms used to describe surveillance alliances between multiple countries around the world. They’re essentially just big groups of intelligence agencies that have joined together and agreed that it’s okay to spy on people, keep track of their activities, and share their data amonst themselves. Let’s take a closer look.
What Is 5 Eyes?
5 Eyes, also written as Five Eyes and commonly abbreviated to FVEY, is arguably the best-known of the intelligence alliances in the English-speaking world as it’s basically a grouping of the biggest English-speaking countries’ intelligence agencies. Here’s a list of the members of FVEY:
- United States
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
The history of 5 Eyes goes all the way back to the 1940s and the establishment of the UKUSA Agreement. It was originally just between the UK and US, but Canada, Australia, and New Zealand joined a few years later to make up the titular 5 Eyes.
For many years, the existence of the UKUSA Agreement and 5 Eyes was kept a secret. Even major leaders like the Prime Minister of Australia didn’t actually know about it until the 1970s, and the public didn’t hear about it all until the 2000s, with the full text coming out in 2010 for public perusal.
Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee, leaked a lot of classified information back in 2013, including details regarding 5 Eyes and its activities. Naturally, the public took a keen interest in this matter, and many debates have been raging ever since about the rights and wrongs of surveillance, especially on the internet.
Pros and Cons of Internet Surveillance
|Tracking criminals allow intelligence agencies and authorities to prevent terrorist attacks and reduce crime rates||Invasion of privacy and personal space; nobody wants to feel like they’re being watched all the time|
|Lower crime rates lead to a safer society and more peace of mind for citizens||Potential for data to leak or fall into the wrong hands|
It’s not a simple issue, and there are arguments to be made on both sides, but the simple fact of the matter is that the average person living a regular life doesn’t want to be spied on. The thought of someone tracking your every move online is very unsettling, and this is why so many people are turning to VPNs nowadays.
What Is 9 Eyes?
As you might expect, 9 Eyes is essentially just an extension of 5 Eyes. It includes all of the FVEY countries mentioned above, along with:
- The Netherlands
What Is 14 Eyes?
Again, 14 Eyes is another extension which includes all of the countries seen in 9 Eyes as well as the following:
Another name for the 14 Eyes nations is SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR).
It’s worth noting that there are other intelligence alliances, with 8 Eyes, also known as Five Eyes Plus Three, being one example. This includes the Five Eyes nations as well as Japan, France, and Germany, and was formed in 2018. Another example is the ‘Club de Berne’, which is made up of European intelligence agencies. It is also believed that countries like Israel and Singapore are involved with the 5 Eyes.
Why Should You Care?
So we can see that there are various agreements in place between intelligence agencies all around the world permitting them to spy on people and exchange information, but what does that mean for you? Well, as previously mentioned, the vast majority of people don’t really like the idea of having governments and intelligence agencies looking over their shoulders at all times.
Maybe you don’t mind all that much about being spied on by official authorities. If you’re doing nothing illegal or wrong online, then you might think you have nothing to fear, but criminals aren’t the only ones at risk. If your online acts are being logged and stored somewhere, that information (which could include your personal details and bank information) could end up falling into the wrong hands.
Not All VPNs Are Created Equal
Now, you might be thinking that you have a VPN, so your internet connections are all secure, but you need to think again. The very existence of these various ‘Eyes’ agreements means that if your VPN provider is located in any of the various 14 Eyes countries, your data isn’t really secure at all.
Why? Because the intelligence agreements basically allow agencies like the CIA or NSA to contact the VPN provider and demand to see your data. Worst of all, they can do this without even needing to tell you about it. This actually happened to Philip Snowden himself.
VPNs Within The Jurisdiction Of The 14 Eyes
There are a lot of different VPNs out there nowadays, with new providers seemingly popping up all the time. If you truly want to be safe online, choosing a VPN outside of the jurisdiction of the 14 Eyes countries is a very smart idea. This is why it’s vital to do your research and investigate the background of each VPN provider before you go ahead and sign up for any subscriptions or agree to any deals.
The whole point of getting a VPN is, after all, to protect your data and encrypt your internet connections, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to choose a 14 Eyes provider who could simply give away your information to an intelligence agency without even needing to ask for your permission.
Examples of 14 Eyes VPNs:
- Private Internet Access
- VPN Unlimited
- And many, many more
VPNs Outside The Jurisdiction Of The 14 Eyes
When choosing a VPN, you have a lot of different factors to consider. Things like the size of the network, security features, subscription prices, and ease-of-use are all important aspects to think about, and it’s also important to take a look at where exactly your VPN is headquartered in order to see whether or not it might fall victim to the 14 Eyes intelligence agencies.
Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent VPN providers who are under no obligation whatsoever to hand over your info (or any info at all) to intelligence agencies, and these are generally regarded as some of the top VPNs to choose if you want total anonymity and maximum privacy online.