5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes Explained


If you are interested in privacy you might have heard of the terms “5 Eyes”, “9 Eyes”, and “14 Eyes”. These terms are used to describe a coalition of countries that work together in obtaining and sharing data. If you live in one of the coalition countries, it might be good to know that your government can share any information about you with the other members. This has severe consequences for your online privacy. What these 5, 9, and 14 Eyes countries do exactly, how they came to be, and what consequences this has for your privacy is all described below.

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The Origin of the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes

The original 5 Eyes alliance was formed in the 1940s. It started as a union between the United States and the United Kingdom, the so-called UKUSA agreement. This made it possible for the United States and the United Kingdom to share information more easily. Canada, Australia, and New-Zealand joined the UKUSA agreement because they were cooperating Commonwealth countries with a common legal system. This is how the 5 Eyes, also known as the FVEY, came to be.

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The ECHELON Surveillance System

During the Cold War the FVEY developed a system which allowed them to intercept Soviet communication. This system, called the ECHELON surveillance system, is now used to monitor the communication of billions of citizens worldwide.

In the 90s the general public became aware of the ECHELON system, which caused a small outrage in Europe and the United States. The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent War on Terror are an excuses to continue the practices of monitoring. Now the focus of the surveillance is mainly on the internet. Understandably, because most of our communication happens online.

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5 Eyes and the Increase of Spying Worldwide


With the expansion of the ECHELON system and the data exchange between the 5 Eyes countries, it became clear that they were going to use the system for mass surveillance. Communication between country officials or even citizens is intercepted and shared with the other 5 Eyes countries on a large scale. Due to the agreement, the amount of surveillance has only grown over the years.

Legislation in, for instance, the United States, says the NSA cannot spy on their own citizens. Because these rules are different in other countries, it can be easier for the United States to have a foreign organization, for instance one from the United Kingdom, spy on their citizens. Because of the 5 Eyes alliance, the United Kingdom can easily share this information with the NSA. This creates the opportunity for countries to bypass their own privacy laws and use mass surveillance on their citizens.

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Expanding the 5 Eyes Alliance: 9 Eyes and 14 Eyes

Along the years the 5 Eyes alliance has expanded to include other countries as well. It has grown into a large network of countries that share sensitive information about their citizens with each other.

The 9 Eyes countries were a formation of the original 5 Eyes countries with the Netherlands, France, Denmark, and Norway. Finally, with the addition of Belgium, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Sweden it is now the 14 Eyes alliance. These 14 countries can now share sensitive information with each other without having to go through too much trouble.

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Protect Yourself Against Mass Surveillance

Because we handle privacy sensitive things online, it is good to be aware of concepts like the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes alliance. This can potentially invade your privacy. A government agency in your country might intercept your personal communication. subsequently, they can share it with government agencies in one of the other countries. Your government can do so without your direct permission.

To protect themselves against these forces some internet users now choose to use a VPN. A VPN offers a good way to protect your online privacy and hide your data traffic from prying eyes. Furthermore, to make sure you escape the reach of the 5, 9, 14 eyes countries, it’s best to go for a VPN that isn’t in one of these countries. Some examples of premium VPN providers that aren’t subject to the mass surveillance of the 14 Eyes countries are:

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Overview of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes Countries

Below you can find an easy overview of the countries that make up the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances.

5 Eyes countries 9 Eyes countries 14 Eyes countries
United States United States United States
United Kingdom United Kingdom United Kingdom
Australia Australia Australia
Canada Canada Canada
New-Zealand New-Zealand New-Zealand
The Netherlands The Netherlands
France France
Denmark Denmark
Norway Norway

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Final Thoughts

The 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes countries form a global alliance that exchanges sensitive information and uses mass surveillance. Through the years it has become a global spying network. The agreements of the alliance are a way for these countries to bypass their national privacy laws. As a result, if you live in one of these countries, your government can share any information with government agencies in the other 13 countries. Therefore, using a VPN to improve your online privacy might not be such a bad idea. In addition, a VPN can ensure that no agency can intercept your internet traffic. You might think you have nothing to hide but with so many eyes watching you, who knows what they might see.