The digital world is expanding at lightening speed. New services, applications, platforms, and innovations keep revolutionizing the way we live. Some argue that we are being controlled, ignoring our primal human instincts. Others debate, the internet has only improved our lives.

Does it respect our right to privacy though? Now, that is a tricky question to answer. Most people know that once you go online, there will always be a digital trace of YOU. Some accept the consequences, pull out their camera for a selfie, and upload it on social media with the hashtag, #onfleek.

Who cares about what I do in my life? I am not a terrorist. I don’t have anything to hide”. This is the usual response I get during conversations about privacy. Others more alert about the situation know that this digital footprint is risky, and want to learn more about Mass Surveillance, VPN logging policies, and leak issues.

So, this guide is for the more information-hungry, privacy-conscious users. In here, you will learn specifically about the enemies of the internet (part of the 5 Eyes/9 Eyes/14 Eyes Alliances), along with information about safe jurisdictions, where user-privacy is respected.

 

Enemies of the Internet – Unsafe Jurisdictions by Country and Alliance

The Second World War led to the UK/USA Agreement, officially enacted on 5th March 1946, emerging from the 1941 Atlantic Charter and 1943 BRUSA Agreement. The main purpose of which was to create a multilateral alliance for cooperation in signals intelligence.

In the following years, the agreement was extended to encompass New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. Then fast-forwarding to a few more years, we saw the inclusion of several Nordic Countries, the Philippines, and West Germany – operating on separate mechanisms, as joined entities.

These entities go by the names of Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes Alliances. And ever since the aftermath of the September 11 Attacks, the surveillance capabilities of these entities have increased significantly. Now, every netizen in countries part of these alliances are under constant monitoring.

These alliances have their own agenda and do not respond to their own country’s laws. They share gathered details by spying on one another’s citizens. This has wide implications for internet users and top VPNs in particular. In short, if you are located in any of these 14 nations, you are not safe!

Subsequently, you need to familiarize yourself with the regulations and online laws of the country you reside in. So, I decided to go really in-depth into unsafe jurisdictions by alliance and country, analyzing over 187 providers. Hope you appreciate the effort 🙂

Five Eyes Alliance

Abbreviated as “FVEY”, the Five Eyes Alliance goes all the way back to the UKUSA agreement, we discussed earlier. It was initially only meant to be an intelligence-sharing pact between the two countries, but later encompassed three more. This created a powerhouse of five eyes countries:

 

5-eyes-9-eyes-14-eyes

 

These English-speaking countries kept this Five Eyes Agreement secret for decades. Can you imagine the lengths they would go to, if someone found it about it? Its existence was only discovered until 2003 and things were made clearer when Edward Snowden leaked documents.

These files were obtained when he was working as a contractor for NSA. It made clear that the Alliance shared intelligence on Soviet Union, during the “Cold War” and then the ECHELEON Network Disclosures. GCHQ and NSA were caught tapping emails, faxes, telephone calls, and other data traffic.

Now, their agenda has shifted quite dramatically. They constantly use the “War on Terrorism” as an excuse to spy into the lives of locals. Is that fair with us? I don’t think so! I would abstain from sharing my political views here, but I really cannot stop to pondering about how everything seems so pre-planned sometimes.

Surveillance Programs Operated by FVEY

After the 911 Attacks, the Five Eyes Alliance increased their surveillance and adopted practices for monitoring all online activities of users. A global surveillance system typically captures the communications of entire populations across national borders.

The documents leaked by Edward Snowden even revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs operated by the Five Eyes countries. Below you can read all information regarding these jointly operated entities, who completely disregard user-privacy.

PRISM – Run by NSA along with ASD and GCHQ

PRISM a.k.a. SIGAD US-984XN is a program operated by NSA. It collects/stores internet communications from various digital companies in the US. These are based on demands by the government to internet companies, such as the Google LLC under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.

Internet-based companies will have to turn any data that match court-approved search terms. The NSA uses these PRISM requests for targeting communications, including those that are encrypted. The information is then used to carry out secret missions.

XKeyscore – Run by NSA with ASD and the GCSB

XKeyscore, abbreiviated as XKS, is a secret computer system used by the NSA. It analyzes and monitors internet data worldwide on a daily basis. The program has also been shared with the intelligence agencies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain, Japan, and Germany.

According to Edward Snowden, the complicated system grants unlimited surveillance of individuals located anywhere in the world. Conversely, the NSA argues that its reach is limited and restricted. Regardless, the system is just more proof of the technologies used by five eyes countries for gathering more data of people located, anywhere in the world.

Tempora – Run by GCHQ with the NSA

A secret computer used by GCHQ for buffering internet communications extracted from fibre-optic cables. The system was in testing since 2008 and only became operational in 2011. It grants the agency access to large amounts of personal data, without arising suspicion.

Edward Snowden claims the system has two principal components Global Telecoms Exploitation (GTE) and Mastering the Internet (MTI), intended to collate telephone and online traffic. By May 2012, 250 NSA analysts and 300 GCHQ analysts were assigned to sort the data collected.

MUSCULAR – Run by GCHQ and the NSA

Located in the UK, MUSCULAR a.k.a. DS-200B is a program run by GCHQ and NSA, which has been confirmed to be the cause of hacks, at the data centers of Google and Yahoo! In a 30-day period, MUSCULAR had collected 181 million records for secret purposes.

According to the leaked document by Edward Snowden, NSA’s acquisitions use millions of records every day from Google and Yahoo’s networks to data warehouses in Fort Meade, Maryland. The program collects twice as many data points as compared to PRISM.

STATEROOM – Run by the CSE, CIA, ASD, GCHQ, and NSA

Operated by members of the ECHELON network and signatories of the UKUSA agreement, the STATEROOM is a signals intelligence program, used to carry out diplomatic missions allegedly. However, most are not aware as to the true purpose of the program.

However, from what we do know, STATEROOM is run by CSE, CIA, ASD, GCHQ, and NSA combined. It may not be different than any other Mass Surveillance system.

Notable Individuals Targeted by FVEY

Plenty have been targeted by the FVEY using shared intelligence. One name that would probably surprise you is that of the late, Charlie Chaplin. The comedian/filmmaker/composer was placed under surveillance for his communist beliefs. Other targets include more famous names like:

Notable Organizations Targeted by FVEY

The shared intelligence gathered by the many surveillance programs of the Five Eyes Nations do not only target individuals. There have been plenty instances of famous airlines, broadcasting networks, financial institutions and more getting spied on by NSA, GCHQ, ASD, GCSB, CSIS.

Universities

United Nations

  • United Nations General Assembly – NSA spying on UN partners, officials, and secret pacts.
  • International Atomic Energy Agency – The NSA tapped the phone of IAEA’s founder.

Telecom Operators

Oil Corporations

  • PetrobrasNSA spies on Petrobras ventures of exploring oil in deep-sea areas.

Multinational Corporations

  • Thales Group – Spied on top officials in 60 nations, including the owner of Thales Group.

Financial Institutions

  • MasterCard – NSA is engaged in monitoring international payments from the financial company.
  • Visa Inc – A branch called “Follow the Money” (FTM) was created by NSA for monitoring payments.

Five Eyes (FVEY) Surveillance Countries!

I hope the above section helps you understand how invasive countries in the Five Eyes Alliance can get. They have no regards for user-privacy and continue to carry out their devious practices.

To give users a better idea, I have dissected each member of the Five Eyes Country into a separate category, discussing their government laws surrounding VPN usage and digital privacy.

United States of America

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

Despite its aggressive control over residents online activities, the US does not ban the use of VPNs. In fact, they host the largest number of VPN Providers in the entire world, a total of 49 according to my research.

I have listed some popular names below, all of which are US-based. And, they are guaranteed to show cooperation whenever the government demands it. This can prove detrimental to your online privacy.

Surely, the US does great in showing support for civil liberties and human rights. However, their claims of supporting “Freedom of Speech and of the Press” is entirely false.

Several US agencies (listed below) have been involved in controversies surrounding internet use. NSA has a backdoor to numerous MAJOR technological companies.

This grants them access to all internet data, including from Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft to keep track of online communications for their own selfish reasons.

Their government even supports ISP monitoring and knows all details concerning your education, schooling, parents’ income, employment status, place of work, loan payments status.

All of these reasons combined have resulted in the US being listed as an “Internet Enemy” from Reporters without Borders. Therefore, I’d strictly advise against trusting the company and their many services that claim to offer you anonymity online.

US Agencies Involved in Data Sharing

  • National Security Agency (NSA)
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)

Popular US-Based VPN Services

I do not need to elaborate more on why you should be avoiding US-based VPN services, like the ones mentioned below. However, if you are in need of a reliable service, you will have to depend on providers located outside the country. You can read this best VPN for USA guide for my recommendations to keep you safe in the FVEY country.

  • Anonymizer VPN
  • Ace VPN
  • Hide. Me
  • Hide My IP
  • Hide All IP
  • Hotspot Shield
  • Hoxx VPN
  • IPVanish
  • LiquidVPN
  • Norton Wi-Fi Privacy
  • Private Tunnel
  • Private Internet Access
  • ProXPN
  • RA4W VPN
  • SwitchVPN
  • StrongVPN
  • Speedify
  • SlickVPN
  • TouchVPN
  • TorGuard
  • VPN Unlimited

United Kingdom

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

The UK and US are the founding members of the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes Countries. As such, you can expect a great amount of distrust and dishonesty from both countries.

The constitutional monarchy tends to act very innocent, but has adopted a very democratic form of ruling over the past few decades. Just like the US, they claim to be supportive.

Especially in terms of civil liberties, political rights, freedom of expression, and privacy. However, at the same time, they make it mandatory to conduct surveillance on their residents.

Since the Investigatory Powers Act released in 2016, ISPs and Telecoms have been recording text messages, calls, connection times, browser history and way more.

This data is stored for 2 years and available to UK’s Agencies (listed below), partners, and Five Eyes Alliances without any warranty necessary.

UK claims they take these measures to combat child abuse and terrorism, but are instead found tapping fibre optic cables and indulge in targeted spying.

Using a VPN is legal in the country, but the data retention laws apply to all providers. This is why the Reporters Without Borders have listed the country as an “Internet Enemy”.

UK Agencies Involved in Data Sharing

  • Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)
  • Secret Intelligence Service (SIS a.k.a. MI6)
  • Defence Intelligence (DI)
  • Security Service (MI5)

Popular UK-Based VPN Providers:

  • HideMyAss!
  • SaferVPN
  • ZoogVPN

New Zealand

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

While VPNs are legal in New Zealand, the location still is not a safe place for your online activities. The country imposes quite similar laws, as its neighbor, Australia (another Five Eyes Member).

The only difference between the two is that New Zealand can be described as little more lenient when regulating the internet. They do not issue takedown notices for hate speech.

They are also more cooperative when dealing with residents who trade objectionable content on the internet. However, this does not mean that the Government sides with residents.

New Zealand performs all the surveillance activities, as any other Five Eyes Alliance member. Also, their reason for indulging in such practices for “fighting terrorism” has recently been debunked.

The country failed to combat White Nationalist Terrorism. Most recent example being the March 15 attack, in which fifty were killed and dozens more wounded.

Terrorism from white radicals is a transnational threat, largely ignored by policymakers and members of Five Eyes. A 17-minute video of the attack was posted live on the terrorists FB profile! How handy was the surveillance, when even the NZ police took 20+ minutes to arrive to the scene?

New Zealand Agencies Involved in Data Sharing

  • New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS)
  • Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)
  • Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security (DDIS)

Canada

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

As friendly of a country Canada portrays itself to be, along with their Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau – it definitely indulges in some dark practices for surveillance on its citizens.

It is actually quite admirable how Canada has managed to impose strict polices like surveillance, data retention, and expulsion of net neutrality, and still rank as one of the freest territories.

Their government regularly cooperates with ISPs and implements the same legal framework that empowers its five eyes intelligence agencies (listed below) for sharing data with member nations.

While VPNs are legal in the country, I can guarantee they too, are required to share all personal data to the government. Recently, Canada has also been facing a lot of heat from other members.

This particular case revolves around its affiliation with the Chinese high-tech giant Huawei, which Five Eyes spies claim works with China’s Intelligence agencies.

However, people like me cannot help but wonder. Was all that drama and tension about Five Eyes and Huawei, just a gimmick to stop nations from falling dependent on their 5G technology?

Canadian Agencies Involved in Data Sharing

  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
  • Communications Security Establishment (CSE)
  • Canadian Forces Intelligence Command (CFINTCOM)

Popular Canadian-Based VPN Services:

  • Betternet
  • BTGuard VPN
  • SurfEasy
  • TunnelBear
  • Windscribe

Australia

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

Similar to other Five Eyes Countries, Australia does not place any restrictions on the use of VPNs. However, this does not stop them for imposing invasive laws, due to their intelligence sharing agreements.

Australia’s constitution denies the explicit right to free speech. A “ communications power” clause, even allows Australian agencies to regulate the internet, telephonic, telegraphic, and even postal services.

They even promote and mandate a “opt-in” filtering program, which users voluntarily accept for blocking offensive, illegal, or pornographic content.

To ensure these laws are followed, ISPs themselves are tested by the government and verified to meeting all required legal statures, which include data retention and sharing.

Australian Agencies Involved in Data Sharing

  • Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO)
  • (ASD) – Australian Signals Directorate
  • (ASIO) – Australian Secret Intelligence Service
  • (ASIS) – Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • (AGO) – Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation

Popular Australia-Based VPN Providers:

  • Celo VPN
  • VPNSecure Me

What is Nine Eyes Alliances?

According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has a “massive body” known as the Foreign Affairs Directorate, responsible for creating partnerships with other allies and countries.

By 1956, three more countries were added to the UKUSA agreement, creating the Five Eyes Alliance. Later more members added to the list, go by the names 9 or 14 Eyes Countries.

They act as an extension of the FVEY, benefiting from similar cooperation by the sharing and collection of Mass Surveillance data.

From what I have learnt though, members of FVEY use a centralized, automatically-updated system nicknamed “Stone Ghost” for sharing nations’ intelligence.

Nine Eyes is different in the sense that their channels for intelligence-sharing are narrower, and do not include access to technologies like the Stone Ghost.

Nine Eyes Surveillance Countries!

Countries that are part of the Nine Eyes Alliances may not have the same autonomy of sharing intelligence, but are equally riskier locations, in terms of digital privacy.

Think of them as the Nine Eyes featured in the James Bond Film “SPECTRE” for a close representation, which include all of the previous Five Eyes countries, plus:

  1. Norway
  2. Netherlands
  3. France
  4. Denmark

 

9 Nine Eyes Nation Alliance

 

Norway

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

Users worried about their digital privacy can use a VPN service in Norway. Just make sure you opt for one that is not located in the country itself, like Opera VPN (free service – tricky, eh?).

Excluding the VPN-talk, Norway is famed for having an open environment for media and freedom of expression. They do not impose any kind of filtering, verified by ONI in 2009.

As such, the country does not have a ONI country profile, but you can still find its name in the regional overview for Nordic Countries by the OpenNet Initiative.

Norway does grant the public access to government information, but in exchange they do penetrate the internet and indulge in surveillance.

While there are no restrictions or censorships for content, major ISPs do use DNS filters for blocking child pornography, The Pirate Bay, and other similar websites.

Popular Norway-Based VPN Services:

  • Opera VPN

Netherlands

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

VPNs are perfectly legal in the Netherlands and residents enjoy one of the most lenient internet systems. The government imposes no censorship or restrictions on internet access.

Of course, they do draw a line when it comes to copyright infringement, banning sites like the Pirate Bay – ordered by the Dutch Court in 2017.

However, its acquisition in the list of Nine Eyes Members sets a delicate precedent for residents. Users do not feel safe sharing their data or indulge in simple browsing.

This is because the country uses the same intelligence-sharing framework, where members gather and sharing electronic data on citizens.

Popular Netherlands-Based VPN Providers:

  • Goose VPN
  • ShadeYouVPN
  • VPN4All
  • WifiMask
  • WASEL Pro
  • ProXPN
  • RootVPN

France

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

France does not impose any strict regulations against VPN services. The country for the most part, does promote freedom of the press and speech online.

It allows residents unfiltered access to content, with the exception of websites that promote terrorism/hatred/racial violence and child pornography.

However, at the same time, they do implement a “three-strikes” legislation and a law that promotes administrative filtering to create a “civilized” internet.

In response to these laws, the officials of several journalists and media firms were raided for court summons, pressurizing them to identity their sources.

The country even implements Article 18, due to a draft executive order released in June 2011, giving ministries the power to restrict online content;

“in case of violation, or where there is a serious risk of violation, of the maintenance of public order, the protection of minors, the protection of public health, the preservation of interests of the national defense, or the protection of physical persons”.

As a result, France has been added to the list of “Countries Under Surveillance” by the Reporters Without Borders. It is best to stay clear from VPN services based in the country.

Popular France-Based VPN Services:

  • ActiVPN

Denmark

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

Denmark does not have an ONI profile yet, but it is still included in the regional overview for Nordic Countries. ONI claims that the country imposes no filtering.

However, this does not extend to child pornography, illegal music, regulated drugs and pirated file-sharing. As such, sites like The Pirate Bay and All of Mp3 are denied access in the country.

According to WikiLeaks on 23 December 2008, a huge number of 3,863 other websites were filtered in Denmark. Most of these included phony services, including local and foreign sites.

Its membership to Nine Eyes also binds Denmark to sharing electronic data of residents to other members countries. As such, the location cannot be considered a “Safe” jurisdiction.

Popular Denmark-Based VPN Providers:

  • BeeVPN
  • CitizenVPN
  • Unlocator

What is Fourteen Eyes Alliance?

After the inclusion of the four countries above in the UKUSA agreement, the intelligence agencies of several others joined the cause, fighting the supposed “War of Terror”.

The alliance was further extended to include five more member countries, forming  “14 Eyes Countries” a.k.a. SIGINT Seniors Europe (SSEUR), according to Edward Snowden’s leaked documents.

However, where one may think this alliance is even deadlier than the FVEY, it is actually even less “intimate” than Nine Eyes Alliance members.

The only thing that remains consistent with this acquisition is the benefiting of Governments from access to resource and intelligence, they previously did not have access to.

Fourteen Eyes Surveillance Countries!

With the UKUSA agreement extending to include 14 countries, I cannot help but state how clever the US and UK are. They did not bother sharing the Stone Ghost technology with new members.

This directly means they have extended their collection of data, while cherry-picking things to share with other members of the broader alliance, hence why you need to rely on the best VPNs Outside 14 Eyes.

The 14 Eyes surveillance countries include all of the previous Nine Eyes countries, plus:

  1. Italy
  2. Sweden
  3. Germany
  4. Spain
  5. Belgium

Italy

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

Italy may be lenient when it comes to VPNs, but since they are part of 14 Eyes Countries, I cannot help but wonder whether services within the country cooperate with Government authorities.

Of course, if you want to leverage safety, you can opt for VPNs outside the country (that are non-members of the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes Countries).

For the most part, Italy promotes Freedom of Speech. However, according to its ONI profile, the government is very slow in addressing online privacy related concerns.

There is also some regulation noticed, particularly in certain categories of websites found promoting gambling, copyright infringement, and child pornography.

OpenNet labels Italy’s transparency at “high”, but their consistent at “low”. This just verifies the fact that the government is currently working on laws to censor/monitor online access.

Popular Italy-based VPN Services:

  • AirVPN

Sweden

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

Sweden is lucky to be classified by ONI with no evidence of filtering, but the country is still included in the regional overview for Nordic countries.

The country is an affluent European monarchy, but follows a parliamentary form of Government, similar to New Zealand. Sweden does promote an unrestricted internet.

They grant access to civil liberties, prohibiting interference in matters of freedom of speech, press, and cases concerning privacy/anonymity.

The government respects these rights, but does grant court orders for monitoring targeted individuals, in matters concerning national security threats.

Similar to most Nordic Countries, Sweden has taken action to block access to The Pirate Bay, by raiding a nuclear-proof data center nearby Stockholm.

Popular Sweden-based VPN Providers:

  • AzireVPN
  • FrootVPN
  • IPredator
  • proxyst
  • Mullvad
  • OVPN
  • PRQ
  • PrivateVPN

Germany

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

Rated “Free” in Freedom on the Net and listed as “no evidence” in all four areas (internet tools, conflict/security, social, political) by ONI, Germany is another surprising Fourteen Eyes Member.

I think if it wasn’t for Edward Snowden leaking those documents, we would not even know whether Germany was a member of the UKUSA Agreement.

They are quite open in claiming that they defend their citizens right to privacy. Of course, they have attempted to censor the internet over the years.

However, Germany claims that this was done only to curb terror-related extremism, suppress fake news, eradicate hate speech, and protect minors.

Popular Germany-Based VPN Services:

  • Avira Phantom
  • ZenMate
  • ChillGlobal
  • GoVPN
  • me
  • Steganos
  • me

Spain

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

Spain is not listed in Reporters Without Borders, not classified by ONI, and neither in Freedom on the Net’s 2013 report, indicating that it is quite the safe location.

As far as I’ve researched, the Government imposes no restrictions on the internet. Some even claim that they cannot monitor emails or internet chat rooms, without relevant legal permission.

The law does, however, prohibit glorification or supporting of terrorism, racial discrimination, or hatred for sexual orientations, national origins, etc.

Up till recent the only public blocking done is for the P2P/Torrenting site, the Pirate Bay. On March 2015, TBP was blocked on multiple URLs.

However, since Spain is part of the Fourteen Eyes Alliance, I would stick with my belief that the location is not a safe place. This goes true, especially if you crave complete digital privacy.

Belgium

Is VPN use permitted by Law? Yes

Belgium does not have an ONI profile, but the country is included in the regional overview of Europe. VPN use is legal in the country, where there is quite a lot of censorship.

Numerous telecom providers like Tele2, Versatel, Vikings, Mobistar, Proximus, Belgacom, and Telenet have been filtering several websites at DNS level since April 2009.

Belgium claims this is done to prevent illegal file sharing, unlicensed gambling, and promoting of Bigotry and Anti-Semitism, as part of their Internet Censorship campaign.

Since the country is a Fourteen Eyes Member though, I would not recommend that it is a safe location for online activities. Your information could be at risk of monitoring on a daily basis!

Wrapping Things Up

I hope this in-depth guide helps users understand more about 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances. To summarize, you must never trust countries part of the UKUSA Agreement.

Only go for VPN services that are located in non-member countries, as they guarantee online anonymity and safety, instead of Mass Surveillance and invasion of privacy.

Which gets me to my other question: After reading this entire guide, do you think these alliances have actually played a role in fighting the “War on Terror?” – a reason they constantly use for invading YOUR privacy! Does it not seem like there is an ulterior motive to all this?

I will not even discuss terror attacks from 2000 onwards (when surveillance capabilities were increased), but let’s talk about 2010 to present. How many of these countries have STOPPED bombings/shootings via the online surveillance they conduct on billions/trillions of people around the world?

It seems as if the only thing these agencies are after is INFORMATION about each other, celebrities, the common man, or large organizations.

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