While many people may not have heard of the 5-eyes, 9-eyes, and the 14-eyes jurisdiction, it is well known in the world of VPN users.
What these all stand for are different government’s surveillance alliances, although these alliance countries have the right interests at heart in combatting terrorism.
There is a mass collection of user data from everyone who uses the internet or other forms of communication.
- Who are the Nine Eyes?
- Why do these groups exist?
- What is the ECHELON Surveillance System?
- How Does the 5 Eyes Spy on People?
- How You Can Protect Yourself Against the Mass Surveillance
- Why Does This Matter If You Have Got Nothing to Hide?
- And Finally
What it all boils down to is these governments acting like one and carrying out global spying on internet users.
With each of these countries, internet users now have zero privacy, and any information, or anything that may be of use, will be spread between all the other countries in these jurisdictions.
Here, we will go into some detail of which countries are in these jurisdictions, why they exist, and how users can protect themselves and their privacy from this spying and mass surveillance.
Who are in the Five Eyes
When you look at the history of the five eyes agreement, you will see, it isn’t a new thing. The very early beginnings go all the back to World War 2. This was when the first UKUSA Agreement was drawn up.
This declared that both the UK and the USA would form a partnership in intelligence sharing. A few years later, in 1948, Canada was included, and by the late 1950s, this initial partnership was extended to include the final two countries, which would make up the five eyes.
This continued throughout the Cold War, and up until 2013, it was gathering momentum and also capability in data gathering.
Here is an overview of the founding members that go into making up the five eyes alliance.
As they were one of the two founders, it was around 1941 with the formation of the Atlantic Charter when the UK helped form the Five Eyes.
In 2016 there was the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act. Since then. ISP’s and telecom companies have been recording users browsing histories, text messages, and their connection times. Data retention periods are set at 2-years before they are over-written.
No warrant for the sharing of this information is required, and it is available by any UK government agencies.
This may also spread to what countries are part of the UK and under their full control.
Government agencies that are involved with information gathering and sharing are Defence Intelligence, GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters, MI5, MI6, and SIS (Secret Intelligence Service.
The USA was a co-founder of the UK. Since then, the US Government has stepped up its mass surveillance means of the collection with the assistance of ISP’s and the more giant telecoms corporations.
It was in 2007 they introduced the PRISM surveillance program to help them achieve this. More recently, ISP’s have been given legal authority to record their user’s activity, and not only retain it, but to sell this on to third parties. To make sure everyone complies, there is no way anyone can opt-out of this.
Canada became a member in 1948, and in later years their role has to be monitor parts of Latin America, China, and Russia.
Canada has its data retention laws, and these go on to cover other areas aside from global surveillance.
However, when it comes to the government agencies that are involved with this mass surveillance, Canada has three: Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and the CSE (Communications Security Establishment).
It was 1956 when Australia became a member, and their membership was so secret, it was only in 1973 that the then Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam knew of its existence.
To make this worse, it was as late as 2005 when the general public became aware of this joint effort for mass surveillance.
Data retention laws fall in line with what the UK implemented. Agencies involved in Australia are the Department of Home Affairs, Defence Intelligence Organisation, Australian Signals Directorate, Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.
Like their closest country, New Zealand also joined the coalition in 1956. Their role in the Five Eyes intelligence service is to monitor Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.
Like all of the countries, there are key roles each performs, but all this becomes combined and shared throughout these member countries.
Government agencies that New Zealand has operated in the Five Eyes are New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security, and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service.
Who are the Nine Eyes?
While there are the five countries that make up the Five Eyes, there are some 3rd Partner Parties who share intelligence with the member states of the Five Eyes.
There are some very specific agreements in place for the Five Eyes nations, and these other agreements are independent and for more specific purposes.
The Nine Eyes consists of the 5 states in the first section and now include the following countries:
It was in 2013 that there was the first mention of the ties Denmark had with the NSA, which made them a part of the Nine Eyes.
All this came about from the leaked documents by Edward Snowden. The actual date of them becoming a third-party participant was 1954.
Being a part of the Nine Eyes gives Denmark a host of unique privileges, but what this entail is unsure. Not just that, it is unclear what they need to return to receive these privileges.
While France is included in the Nine Eyes, it is also unclear at what level of data sharing occurs with the Five Eyes.
In the above mentioned Snowden leaks, there were reports of the NSA having multiple programs that were used to spy of French citizens.
This caused some uproar, and it comes to light; the French government has its own technology in places for spying and monitoring its citizen’s calls. The French intelligence agencies do pass along the intelligence to the NSA.
In 2015 it was mentioned about the Netherlands being a part of the Nine Eyes, and at the time, they were dubbed “the Surveillance Kings of Europe” by Snowden.
At this time, they were being encouraged to join if somewhat in a bullish manner, but with the reactions of the government, it appears they were pleased to take part.
Like many of the other joining forces, there is little on paper to say when or how they come to be a part of the Nine Eyes, but the main thing is they are a member, so that means they are performing some surveillance operations, and sharing data.
Who are the Fourteen Eyes?
With the addition of the previous two sets of countries, the Five Eyes and the Nine Eyes, the UKUSA Agreement was again extended to bring in an extra five countries and bring the number up what is now the 14 eyes.
What are fourteen eyes adding to the five eyes? While not being the same as the original agreement, the new one which encompasses these countries is the SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR).
With this jurisdiction, fourteen eyes role is aimed at is to exchange any military signal intelligence within these countries.
The countries which go to make up the 14-eyes are as follows:
- 9-eyes countries
Like the lack of full information when these countries joined, but the SIGINT Seniors coalition dates back to 1982.
It was after the 911 attacks that it was found the group was now numbering 14 countries in their bid to counter any further terrorism.
Why do these groups exist?
Because the beginnings were back in WWII, the roots were for international spying because of matters of war.
However, since then, these groups have existed because of threats from other nations in the case of war.
Nowadays, the focus has shifted slightly, and it is terrorism that these groups are looking to gain an advantage.
With this, though, things are taken to the extreme as they have, and rather than merely checking if there is any internet traffic that relates to terrorism or activist actions, these powers are targeting individuals on who to spy on.
One of the latest threats has been from China, and there is a continual focus in this area. To delve even deeper, there were significant concerns over the company Huawei and the equipment they were supplying to many countries that exist not only in any Five Eyes countries but to the rest of the world.
What is the ECHELON Surveillance System?
The official word is that the Echelon system doesn’t exist. However, history tells a very different story.
This was a system that was developed under the UKUSA agreement. It’s objective was to become a global surveillance network between 5 eyes alliance.
What it does is to intercept transmissions or communications using the best technology for the case. In earlier days, wiretapping was one of the key methods used.
With more modern technologies, all this data is combined, and shared between countries, while a simple keyword search like you would do in Google. The millions of transmissions can be searched to see if these keywords occur.
Supercomputers crunch the numbers and filter out any communication that is found as suspicious; these transcriptions are then analysed further.
How Does the 5 Eyes Spy on People?
Echelon has gone on to be a network of spy stations, on a global scale which can eavesdrop on computers, faxes, and telephone calls. Such is its power; it can also track bank accounts.
While you may think the Echelon system is listening at ground level, it is, in fact, also tracking radio, satellite, and microwave transmissions as well as cellular and fiber optic. Several of these coming from communications satellites.
Such satellites have been in operation since the late 60s, and that was around the GCHQ began operating one of the first secret stations in the UK.
In 1981 the USA and the GCHQ began construction on the original WAN for such operations, soon after Australia, New Zealand, and Canada joined in this operation.
As there has been a reduction in the use of satellites for some communications, the primary way of communication is by fiber optic cables.
One of the easiest ways they can tap into these communications is via ISP’s, hence the reason so many ISP’s are retaining user data.
What is more worrying is that the use of the Echelon program has been used for industrial espionage rather than for the fight against threats.
Back in 1999, a German-based company (Enercon) who was a manufacturer of wind turbines, came up with a new invention.
When they came to apply for a US patent, it was found an American rival company already applied for an almost identical patent.
Hence, it came to light the NSA was intercepting Enercon’s calls regarding this technological breakthrough.
Here are some examples of how far this surveillance has gone, and how five eyes flag something suspicious:
- RFID spying – the small chip in your credit or debit card
- Through computers – this will include webcams, microphones, and everything related to internet use.
- Cell/Mobile phones – any activity on a cell phone can be monitored.
- Smart home assistants – voice-activated devices can be great listening devices
- Facial recognition – this is everywhere. Most public areas have these cameras.
How You Can Protect Yourself Against the Mass Surveillance
There will be many users who think they are doing nothing wrong, so there is no need to protect themselves from mass surveillance.
However, this doesn’t stop these agencies from collecting and storing data. ISP’s don’t care if you are doing anything wrong; they are obliged to build up a profile on you.
You can, however, do some things to protect yourself, here are a few ways to go about it:
There are several ways you can go about protecting yourself and minimising the risks of mass surveillance. Here are a few examples of what you can do.
A computer microphone and camera can be accessed remotely, and you will never even know.
What you should do in this case is to disable the microphone, and for the camera, if it is a laptop or a cell phone, you can easily place a small piece of tape over the lens while they are not being used.
Instead of browsing in a regular session, you can activate the private web browsing mode in your browser. This prevents any cookies or browsing history from being saved once your browsing session has ended.
These snippets of information can help build up a profile, and the cookies do contain sensitive information relating to the websites you visit.
To help beef up your browser security, you can use browser extensions. While they don’t fully protect you, they can reduce the risk of anyone tracking your movements while online.
There are numerous adblocking and tracking prevention extensions that perform very well in this regard.
Because your data is exposed, any time you log in to websites, anyone with the capability can easily find out your passwords.
To prevent this from happening, you can use secure password managers. These will take your regular passwords and jumble them up so no one can tell what they are.
Some of these managers are secure enough; they can hold your credit or debit card information, so paying for things online can’t be seen by any surveillance method.
Use a VPN service. This is the best way to protect your privacy. They not only secure your browsing, but any other data that exits your system will be encrypted.
Second, to this, your IP address will be changed so no one can track movements back to your location. What is jurisdiction doing about VPN’s?
There are only a few VPN’s based outside of any of these jurisdictions, so choosing one in these regions will mean they can’t be forced to hand over any user information.
With the same levels of encryption as the NSA and other Five Eyes regions are using, none of your data can be accessed; even your ISP won’t have any information to retain.
They will see you are using the internet, but what you are accessing will be hidden from view.
Why Does This Matter If You Have Got Nothing to Hide?
While many people think they have nothing to hide, this isn’t actually true. Banking credentials and social media login details are something everyone needs to hide.
Aside from that, here are some reasons why your privacy matters.
Privacy is every user’s right. It doesn’t matter if it is online or offline. You may not take to kindly to a neighbour spying on you, so why is it okay for your ISP and governments to do so?
Governments are using this surveillance to affect political outcomes. Anyone who has a differing political stance can find they are silenced so as not to attract followers.
This affects society on the whole as we slowly begin to be a controlled state.
You may find pop-up ads annoying, and that they are, but these are not random as they come from spying and an invasion of your privacy.
These companies quickly find what you are interested in, and how much you are willing to spend to have it. The ad you say may not be the best price, even if it says it is.
If you are not safeguarding your privacy, you can leave yourself open to hackers or online criminals.
These individuals will use any means possible to obtain information. Stopping these is as crucial as stopping your ISP and any Five Eyes surveillance from watching you.
While governments do their best to protect their citizens from the effects of terrorism.
It has been seen, they are taking their powers too far, and what they are allowing themselves to do with this mass surveillance will end up meaning we are all dictated to.
We can face an Orwellian society where everything we do is monitored, scanned, and this information retained.
We can lose freedom of speech, and even this is happening with some of the new European legislation.
While not surveillance, it is up to large companies to filter content, this means we lose a right to make ourselves heard.
All this will only get worse, and no user will have any privacy at all.
It may begin online, and the internet can change in the way we use it, and what we are allowed to access, but if it continues, this mass surveillance will filter more into regular daily life, and affect what we can do or say while offline.