The Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, or simply called Five Eyes, is an alliance that was formed during the Cold War. It was founded through a pact known as the United Kingdom-United States of America (UKUSA) Agreement. The UKUSA Agreement was originally made to decrypt Soviet Russian intelligence.
Canada, New Zealand, and Australia would later join the alliance by the late 1950s. These 5 countries all make up the Five Eyes group as we know them today. These countries all have an intelligence-sharing agreement that has grown stronger over time, and it has even extended its boundaries to surveying online activities.
This agreement was one of the world’s best-kept secrets and was only known between these 5 nations. It wasn’t until 2003 when the existence of the Five Eyes alliance was made known to the public. However, things only became clearer to the public in 2013 after Edward Snowden leaked several classified documents that he obtained while he was still working for the National Security Agency (NSA) as a contractor.
The documents leaked by Snowden not only exposed clandestine surveillance of citizens by the government, but it also showed evidence of the intelligence sharing-network being far more extensive than what was previously thought.
Some of the world’s most controversial privacy scandals are all linked to the Five Eyes Alliance, including XKeyscore, PRISM, and Tempora. Even today, the power and influence of this network is far-reaching and poses a risk to users’ privacies all over the world.
Which Countries Are Part of the Alliance?
The following countries are part of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance:
- New Zealand
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
This is an overview of the agencies conducting different forms of data sharing for the Five Eyes Alliance.
- Australian Secret Intelligence Service (Human Intelligence)
- Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Security Intelligence)
- Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation (Geo-Intelligence)
- Defence Intelligence Organisation (Defence Intelligence)
- Australian Signals Directorate (Signal Intelligence)
- New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (Human Intelligence)
- Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security (Defence Intelligence)
- Government Communications Security Bureau (Signal Intelligence)
United States of America
- Central Intelligence Agency (Human Intelligence)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (Security Intelligence)
- National Security Agency (Signal intelligence)
- National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (Geo-Intelligence)
- Defense Intelligence Agency (Defense Intelligence)
- Government Communications Headquarters (Signal Intelligence)
- Secret Intelligence Service aka MI6 (Human Intelligence)
- Defence Intelligence (Defence Intelligence)
- Security Service aka MI5 (Security Intelligence)
- Communications Security Establishment (Signal Intelligence)
- Canadian Security Intelligence Service (Human Intelligence and Security Intelligence)
- Canadian Forces Intelligence Command (Geo-Intelligence and Defence Intelligence)
What Rights Do They Have Over Your Privacy?
Whenever we send messages to another person, we think that the entire conversation is known only between the sender and the recipient. However, with the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance’s latest demands, the term “private messaging” may soon become a misnomer because the 5-country intelligence-sharing network now wants to have access encrypted text messages, emails, and voice calls.
They have sent out a warning to tech companies how they are going to demand “lawful access” to all encrypted forms of communication. Companies that don’t cooperate may find themselves on the wrong end of the stick as the network will consider utilizing “other measures.”
A memo from the alliance has already been sent out stating “Privacy laws must prevent arbitrary or unlawful interference, but privacy is not absolute.”
That last line of their memo sounds alarming because the network is basically telling the rest of the world that our privacy has limits. It has also caused others to question if the members of the Five Eyes are willing to sacrifice privacy for the sake of security.
The intelligence network has tried to clarify the statement made on their memo by saying that they don’t necessarily want to gain access to people’s private messages. They claim that they only want to gain legal access to encrypted private info to aid them in crime fighting purposes. They believe that criminals, including terrorists and child sex offenders, are using encryption to cover their tracks, thus their reason for wanting to be granted access.
This sounds like a noble and justifiable cause, but the only problem is encryption continues to become better and more advanced which makes it harder for analysts to gain access to encrypted data to help fight crime.
How to Protect Yourself If Your Country is Part of Five Eyes
Just thinking of how some of the world’s most powerful governments can intrusively spy on your activity is already disturbing enough. Fortunately, there are solutions to this that can help you protect your privacy if you happen to live in a country that is under the Five Eyes umbrella. A VPN (virtual private network) is the most fundamental way to keep one’s browsing activities discreet. VPN’s allow users to navigate around the ever-watchful eyes of their ISP and government to prevent their data from being leaked out.
Searching through a VPN directory will give users a list of some of the top and most reliable VPNs in the market. However, it is highly recommended to use VPN services whose base of operations are not located in a country that is under Five Eyes’ jurisdiction. For example, using a Canada VPN service won’t give you the full privacy that you desire because they are under orders from the Canadian government to provide access to their logs upon request.
Finding a VPN that is not located in any of the Five Eyes-controlled regions is a challenge, but users who decide to use a provider from one of the Five Eyes nations should select one that does not store any logs. But then again, this might still not be enough to keep users safe, and one should look no further than Lavabit – a former US-based email provider.
Lavabit came into prominence during the Snowden investigation after the FBI found out that Edward Snowden had been using the service. The bureau demanded to be given access to their logs. Much to their chagrin, the company did not keep logs, so the FBI issued a subpoena for their SSL keys. Had Lavabit complied with these demands, the keys would have provided the FBI with complete access to the encrypted content and metadata of Lavabit users.
Instead of complying, Lavabit decided to shut down, thereby denying the FBI and the US government access to any information. Remember that not all VPN providers are willing to sacrifice themselves to protect their consumers, so make sure to choose your VPN service wisely.