What You Should Know About the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes Alliances

The 5, 9, and 14 Eyes countries are likely surveying your internet activity, but a VPN from a non-alliance country could save your privacy.
We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

The Five Eyes Alliance (FVEY) may be the largest intelligence alliance you’ve never heard of before today. The mass surveillance and data interception by the Five Eyes nations are touted as intelligence services for national security but seem to have more of the hallmark traits of global surveillance.

This anglosphere of surveillance feels unheard of given the prevalence of information in the media about the Russian and Chinese intelligence community. China, Russia, India, and to lesser extents Japan and India all have their own intelligence communities outside of these alliances.

Whether you live in a Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, or Fourteen Eyes country or not, here’s what you should know about the alliances and how to protect your online privacy by using tools like VPNs.

In this article
What are the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances?
The countries involved in the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances and their partners
What can the alliances do?
Tips to protect your data online
VPNs outside the alliances
Surveillance FAQs
Bottom line

What are the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances?

The Five, Nine, and Fourteen Eyes alliances are groupings of countries that have entered into intelligence sharing agreements. The original group, the Five Eyes, was formed after World War II in an effort to share intelligence in the interest of national security.

After WWII, the UKUSA agreement was signed between what would become the (National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). As it grew, eventually ramping up during the Cold War, British and U.S. intelligence agencies banded together to share signals intelligence.

Signals intelligence, defined by the NSA as “intelligence derived from electronic signals and systems used by foreign targets,” has only become more sophisticated as technology has advanced.

In recent years, the alliances came under scrutiny due to their impact on data privacy and the use of virtual private networks (VPNs).

As countries become more literate in online activity, they want to have access to the information provided by this type of surveillance — and it’s become evident that more and more data is being collected from everyday citizens. These intelligence-sharing arrangements can run the gambit between simple spying all the way to human rights violations.

Officially, each group consists of the countries listed below, but there are more countries that are allies of the 14 and may also be involved in the sharing of information. This means that software made in those countries may not technically share your information, but it’s still a possibility.

The countries involved in the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances and their partners

  • Five Eyes countries: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand
  • Nine Eyes countries: The Five Eyes plus Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and France
  • Fourteen Eyes countries: The Nine Eyes plus Italy, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, and Spain
  • Partners of the 14 Eyes: Israel, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, British Overseas Territories

It’s worth noting that although all countries in the Fourteen Eyes share information within their group, the Nine Eyes and Five Eyes are both more secretive.

While the Five Eyes are privy to the information collected by the Nine Eyes, Fourteen Eyes, and the partners, not all the information collected by the Five Eyes is available to the others. The same is true of the Nine Eyes. The partners, while they do share information they collect with the other alliances, do not have any access to the information collected by the alliances on alliance countries.

As the want for increased surveillance grows, more countries apparently align themselves with this global surveillance system. It seems that this system of alliances has a hierarchy of secrets.

What can the alliances do?

The alliances can collect and store your internet activity from your internet service provider (ISP), third-party surveillance, or activity trackers.

This data includes your IP address, browsing history, search history, phone calls, video calls, private messages, emails, and anything else that passes through your internet connection. Basically, if it’s sent via an internet connection, it can be tracked, recorded, and stored.

The Fourteen Eyes also have the ability to tap phone lines. In the U.S., this is legal under the Patriot Act, which was enacted after 9/11. There have been several attempts in recent years to restrict the access granted by the Patriot Act, but Congress has continually struck them down and allowed the surveillance to continue.

The U.S. isn’t the only country gathering information on everyday people. Although it’s technically illegal for Britain to spy on its citizens, it can ask Canada to do it for them as an FVEY country. That example extends to any of the alliance countries. This means that privacy laws can be moot if you live in one of these regions.

The Fourteen Eyes countries also have the power to gather information from your ISP through warrants or other judicial means. In some countries, such as the U.S., it may not even be necessary to obtain a warrant to gather your data.

If you want to avoid your ISP collecting what you transmit over the internet, you’ll need to use a VPN with a country of origin outside of the Fourteen Eyes.

Tips to protect your data online

  • Data encryption via a VPN is a great way to help keep your sensitive data protected. But if the VPN is based in an alliance country, there’s still a chance your security can be compromised.
  • VPN providers based in a Fourteen Eyes country can be legally required to hand over your internet activity if it’s requested by the surveillance team. So be sure to use a VPN that’s not based in an alliance country.
  • In addition to a VPN, being aware of the sites you’re visiting and the amount of personal data you’re sharing is good internet hygiene. If a site looks spammy or fishy, it’s best to try to find what you’re looking for from a more reputable source.
  • Knowing the country of origin is very important for the software you use. Many programs touted as protection come from places where the surveillance itself is happening. It’s crucial for a VPN’s potency to be located outside of the Fourteen Eyes.

VPNs outside the alliances

If you want to make sure you have a VPN that can’t be forced to share your data, find out where the software is made. Choosing a VPN from a country outside the alliances ensures your encrypted data stays private.

You’ll also need to make sure the VPN doesn’t keep logs of your internet activity. These logs can be compromised if their servers are ever breached. Below are some suggestions of paid service VPNs and their country of origin.

Leading Protection, Even on Smart TVs and Gaming Consoles
4.6
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On CyberGhost's website
VPN
CyberGhost
Save 83%
  • High-speed global servers offering industry-leading 256-bit AES encryption and no data logs
  • Unlimited bandwidth, DNS and IP leak protection, and automatic kill switch available for up to 7 devices
  • Configurable with your router, smart TV, Amazon Fire TV stick, or gaming console
  • No split tunneling feature

Surveillance FAQs


+

Can the government track you if you’re using a VPN?

The short answer is no. If you use a reliable VPN service your web activity and IP address will definitely be protected. But information you provide to third-party sites, such as your address or your phone number, can still be accessed from that third-party site.

For example, if you enter your data into a shopping website, that site saves your information for payments and shipping. Your address can then be accessed from that individual company rather than from your personal device.


+

Can the government tell if I’m using a VPN?

Yes. Both your ISP and the government can see that your data is encrypted and therefore you’re using a VPN. They can’t, however, see the data being encrypted if the country of origin of the VPN is outside of the Fourteen Eyes.


+

Can the police track VPN activity?

Maybe. If you’re using a reputable VPN outside of the alliances, they won’t be able to track what’s being transferred. If you use a VPN within the alliance countries, the police may obtain a search warrant to serve to the VPN provider and collect your data.

Bottom line

Edward Snowden once said, “Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re not breaking the law, you still have the right to privacy.

A VPN makes sense, not just for the privacy aspect from the Fourteen Eyes countries, but also to keep you safe from cybercriminals. Data encryption provides a sense of security as well as a shield against what you don’t know. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and making sure you keep your information safe is your right.

Most people reading this will never do anything to compromise national security, but that doesn’t mean the right to privacy doesn’t belong to all of us. Using a VPN outside of these surveillance states can help keep your information and data private, even if all it consists of is sending cat memes to your best friend.

Customizable Coverage That is Simple to Use
4.9
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On NordVPN's website
VPN
NordVPN
Up to 66% off 2-year plans + 3 months extra
  • Ultra-secure, high-speed VPN complete with malware protection and automatic blocking of intrusive ads and third-party trackers
  • Other benefits include a premium password manager, dark web monitoring, and access to IP-restricted content
  • 3 plans to choose from for custom protection on up to 10 devices
  • Too many confusing plans

Author Details
Mary lives in Los Angeles and has been a cybersecurity writer for over five years. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, her career in online security began in sales and content creation for a private cybersecurity firm.