Online Privacy is slowly dying. The 5 Eyes is part of a Global spying network that you need to know about! Here is how it affects you…
If you have not seen the video we shared on the LeeTV channel, you can watch it below. This is a transcript of everything that was covered.
The internet has changed the world, it’s changed us as human beings, we live in a time where todays generation are literally sat in the same room, messaging each other.
Social engagements are the centre of most peoples daily routines/
Public places like McDonals, or Cafe’s are becoming popular places for businesses to hold meetings.
Technology has changed the world, it’s changed us. Our lives are becoming a digital reality. Posting letters and postcards are becoming a thing of the past. Why send a post card, when you can share your post on Facebook?
Emailing is one of the biggest forms of communication, along with texting, video calling or group chatting. Literally EVERY way we communicate are through third party services, even telephone conversations.
These services are continuously collecting data,
selling data, or using that data to form profiles of us. Forming our digital identity.
Have you ever wondered, how much these third party companies actually know? Are you conscious to our phones, our smart home devices, our webcams can be used, and are being used, to collect data, or even spy on us.
Edward Snowden blew the whistle on what the NSA was doing. THE GCHQ in the UK are doing the same. If you haven’t heard of terms, Five eyes, Nine Eyes or 14 Eyes when it comes to online privacy, or the use of a VPN, then let me explain what they are.
5 Eyes, 9 Eyes and 14 Eyes
The 5 eyes, 9 eyes and 14 Eyes is a global surveillance program that gives the countries included in the post world war 2 agreement,
the ability to collect and share mass surveillance data with each other.
This network has been spying on people for decades, with established policies going back to the 1940s.
The state agencies behind these efforts often work with internet service providers and other large tech companies to tap key infrastructure for data surveillance.
This turns your internet provider, for example, into a local adversary that is
spying on you for state agencies. And no, this is not a theory. These practices are well-documented in the PRISM surveillance documents and also the infamous Room 641a example with AT&T and the NSA.
What is 5 Eyes?
The global program was initially setup as The Five Eyes surveillance alliance, it was officially enacted after the war in 1946.
This agreement formalized a partnership between the United Kingdom and the United States for gathering and sharing intelligence. The partnership continued throughout the Cold War and has only strengthened since the “Global War on Terror” kicked off in the early 2000s.
Edward Snowden brought renewed focus to the Five Eyes surveillance alliance in 2013 when he exposed the surveillance activities of the US government and its allies.
The 5 countries include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States.
Here are all the Agencies involved in the 5 Eyes coalition, you might recognise some of the abbreviations, some including the CIA, FBI, NSA, MI5, MI6, GCHQ and more from all the countries involved.
It is no surprise that some of the Five Eyes countries listed above are also the worst abusers of online privacy:
In the United Kingdom – Since the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act in 2016, internet service providers and telecoms have been recording browsing history, connection times, and text messages.
The data is stored for two years and is available to UK government agencies and their partners without any warrant.
Meanwhile, in the United States – The US government has been implementing mass surveillance collection methods with the help of large telecoms and internet service providers (you can learn more about this by searching the PRISM program).
In March 2017, internet service providers were given the legal authority to record user activity and sell this to third parties. Of course, internet providers have been collecting data on their customers for many years, long before this law passed in 2017.
Australia has also implemented sweeping data retention laws similar to the United Kingdom.
Whether it is the NSA in the United States or the GCHQ in the United Kingdom, the “5 Eyes” is home to the most powerful surveillance agencies in the world.
The other drawback with Five Eyes countries is that they have tremendous authority to force companies to record and hand over data.
In the United States, the Patriot Act ushered in a new level of power for federal data collection, especially through the use of National Security Letters. We see these same trends unfolding in the UK, Australia, and other locations as well.
What is 9 Eyes?
The existence of the Nine Eyes alliance is referenced in various sources online and became well-known following the Snowden revelations in 2013.
It is just an extension of the Five Eyes alliance with similar cooperation to collect and share mass surveillance data.
The Nine eyes consist of the counties included in 5 Eyes, plus an additional 4, and they are, Denmark, France, Netherlands and Norway.
Over the years, you may have seen your privacy laws change in these countries to align more with the UK or the US. regardless, your data and activity can be monitored and shared with other countries across the 9 eyes.
What is 14 eyes?
As before, the original surveillance agreement was extended to The 14 eyes, the additional 5 countries that followed suit. This includes the 5 countries alligned within the 5 eyes, the additional 4 countries from the 9 eyes, and the further 5 countries that forumulate the 14 eyes.
The official name of this group of countries is referred to as SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR).
The remaining 5 countries to be included in the global surveillance program are Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain.
Various government document releases, which have come out through official FOIA channels, reveal the close relationship between the NSA and GCHQ. Being the two most powerful surveillance entities in the world, with historical ties, it is no surprise that they work closely together.
A top-secret NSA document from 1985, which was released in 2018 via a FOIA request, reveals the close cooperation continues today, based on the broadly-written UKUSA Agreement, which says :
The UKUSA Agreement, dated 5 March 1946, has twelve short paragraphs and was so generally written that, with the exception of a few proper nouns, no changes to it have been made.
It was signed by a UK representative of the London Signals Intelligence Board and the U.S. Senior Member of the State-Army-Navy Communications Intelligence Board (a predecessor organization which evolved to be the present National foreign Intelligence Board).
The principles remain intact, allowing for a full and interdependent partnership. In effect, the basic agreement allows for the exchange of all COMINT results including end product and pertinent collateral data from each pattern for targets worldwide, unless specifically excluded from the agreement at the request of either party.Top Secret NSA Document dated 1985
Another top-secret NSA document from 1997 (officially released in 2018) further elaborates on the close cooperation between the NSA and GCHQ which said:
Some GCHQ [redacted] exist solely to satisfy NSA tasking. NSA and GCHQ jointly address collection plans to reduce duplication and maximize coverage through joint sites and cross-tasking, despite site closures.1997 NSA Document
What is Echelon?
With the reference to “joint sites” above, it’s important to discuss ECHELON.
ECHELON is a network of spy stations utilized by Five Eyes countries for large-scale espionage and data collection. The Guardian described ECHELON as follows:
A global network of electronic spy stations that can eavesdrop on telephones, faxes and computers. It can even track bank accounts. This information is stored in Echelon computers, which can keep millions of records on individuals.
Officially, however, Echelon doesn’t exist. Although evidence of Echelon has been growing since the mid-1990s, America flatly denies that it exists, while the UK government’s responses to questions about the system are evasive.
Despite these denials, there have been whistleblowers who have confirmed what’s going on behind the scenes.
Both Perry Fellwock and Margaret Newsham came forward to document various aspects of ECHELON to the public.
While there are privacy concerns with countries in 9 and 14 Eyes alliances, there are still many people who wish to avoid the use of a VPN that operates within the Five Eyes (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
Therefore, when data security is critical, simply avoid the Five Eyes.
Some people say concerns about these surveillance jurisdictions are overblown or misguided, and that it really doesn’t matter.
You often hear this argument from VPN companies (and their marketers) that are based in the US or Canada, for example. This line of thinking is misinformed and ignores reality.
There are many examples proving the risks associated with privacy-focused companies operating in Five Eyes jurisdictions. Here are just a few that we’ve discussed before on Restore Privacy:
RiseUp VPN Scandal
Riseup, a Seattle-based VPN and email service, was forced to collect user data for government agents and was also hit with a “gag order” to prevent any disclosure to their users. (They also could not update their warrant canary.)
Lavabit Email Scandal
Lavabit, another US-based email service, was basically forced to shut down after the US government demanded encryption keys and full access to user emails. (Rather than comply, the owner closed the business).
IPVanish VPN Scandal
IPVanish, a US-based VPN service, was forced to collect user data for an FBI criminal investigation, all while claiming to be a “no logs VPN” and not alerting their users to what was happening. (See the IPVanish logs case).
HideMyAss VPN Scandal
HideMyAss, a UK VPN service was also ordered by a court to collect user data and hand this over to authorities for a criminal investigation. News about this came out after-the-fact.
These are just a few cases that have publicly come to light, but you can be sure there are other examples we don’t know about.
So why did I mention email and communications at the start of this post? Well, that’s because more is being collected than you might know.
Using a secure and private email service is something more and more internet users are starting to consider.
Here are 3 examples of reasons to consider using an encrypted and more secure communication method.
Gmail was found to be giving third parties full access to user emails and also tracking all purchases via receipts in your inbox.
Yahoo and AOL Scandal
Advertisers are allowed to scan Yahoo and AOL accounts to “identify and segment potential customers by picking up on contextual buying signals, and past purchases.”
Yahoo was found to be scanning emails in real-time for US surveillance agencies.
Best Secure and Encrypted Email Service (FREE)
When it comes to having a secured email service, apart from some of the services available on the deep web. If you are an everyday internet user, like me, you might want to start using a secure and encrypted method of communication, one that falls outside of the 14 eyes.
ProtonMail will always be the first choice. That’s because they encrypt their email communications, and are based in Switzerland, which fall outside the 14 eyes, and have heavy privacy laws to protect users.
They are always the number 1 choice for secured communication methods.
I’ll leave a link in the video description for ProtonMail, who have a free email option, if you want to break away from the surveillance programs outside the 14 eyes.
With privacy becoming the main concern for more users, especially those of streamers, which is the majority of my subscriber base, more and more internet users and streamers are looking for ways to hide their identities and activity, especially when streaming content which may be illegal in some countries.
One of the most common talking points or questions in my VPN related videos are around VPN services that fall outside of the 14 eyes, in countries that are not required to hand over information, or that share the information or data it holds with the countries included in the global coalition.
For those who share these concerns, there are 4 VPN services that I have reviewed and recommend to use for those who want a service that operates outside the 14 eyes jurisdiction.
Best 4 VPNs OUTSIDE the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes and 14 Eyes
If you are looking for a VPN service that falls outside any of the 14 eyes jurisdiction, consider one of the below services, which I consider to be the best VPNs outside the 5 eyes.
Express VPN are based in the British Virgin Islands which falls outside of the UK law jurisdiction. The British Virgin Islands operate both legally and politically independent of the UK. Also owning their own servers, which high encryption methods across different protocols.
ExpressVPN is one of the most secure and trust VPN’s when it comes to both streaming and browsing.
NordVPN are based in Panama. Panama also falls outside of any jurisdiction of the 14 eyes, which make Nord a great choice.
NordVPN offer long term subscription deals, and are also one of the fastest VPNs when it comes to speed, following IPVanish, who are based in the US.
AirVPN are based in Italy. Again, another country that falls outside the 14 eyes.
AirVPN are a good choice for short term deals, and offer a 3 day subscription for 2 Euro’s as a trial period, including monthly and annually, making AirVPN a good choice for those that don’t want a long term VPN.
AirVPN not a very big brand, because they don’t spend much on advertising like others, but they offer a reliable service which operates outside the 5 eyes jurisdiction.
ProtonVPN are based in switzerland who are heavily focused on privacy laws. This makes Proton a great choice.
Proton can secure both your streaming or browsing activity and your communications using ProtonMail, Proton are ideal for an all round solution for internet privacy.
They also went open source to showcase the lack of logs, and to offer transparency with their users on how they operate.
All 4 VPNs offer no logs, and high level encryption methods. They have unmetered bandwidth and fast speeds. Links to all 4, including protonmail will be in the video description for those who are looking for a service based in countries outside the 14 eyes.
Best Secure Browser for ALL Devices
If you want to further your privacy solutions, it may be worth considering Brave Browser, which is a fork of Chrome, that allows the easy import of your bookmarks and passwords, that comes with a built in ad blocker, script, spamming and phishing blockers, and the ability to earn money just by using it.
It is also 3X times faster than Chrome itself and is a great browser solution.
You can download Brave Browser for FREE by clicking here.
Online Privacy Summary
In the end, jurisdiction is just one of many factors to consider when selecting reliable privacy tools for your unique needs.
How much it matters depends on your own circumstances, particularly your threat model and the types of adversaries you are looking to protect yourself against.
For those seeking higher levels of privacy and security, jurisdiction is indeed important, especially when you consider the growing power of governments to force companies to hand over data and log users.
Trust is also a major factor you should consider.
After all, a VPN can operate in a “good” overseas jurisdiction, yet still lie to customers and provide data to government agencies.
This is where trust is key.
Fortunately, to strengthen trust, more privacy-focused businesses are undergoing independent audits and third-party verifications.
In addition to the VPN audits we mentioned above, we also see this trend with password managers and occasionally with secure email services.
With the formation of the VPN Trust Initiative and VPN services and more services going open source, and undergoing internal audits, this is likely to strengthen the trust between the services and its users, and can help shape the future of VPN operations.
Thank you for reading – please check out our Deals and Offers page for the latest VPN discounts.