Fourteen eyes surveillance alliance explained

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A surveillance alliance is an agreement between multiple countries to share their intelligence with one another. This includes things like the browsing history of any user that is of interest to one of the member countries. Five eyes and Fourteen eyes are two alliances of 5 and 14 countries respectively that agree to share information with one another wherever it is mutually beneficial. They were originally made during the cold war as a means of working together to overcome a common enemy (the soviet union) but still exist today. These terms are commonly associated with internet privacy debates and they are two of the largest and most well known surveillance alliances in existence.

What is the fourteen eyes alliance?

Fourteen eyes is an alliance of 14 different countries that have agreed to share their intelligence with one another. It’s origin goes back to 1943 when an agreement was reached between the British and US on a ten page Communication Intelligence agreement. It originally started with only 5 countries and was known as the BRUSA agreement. After that the program grew to 9 countries and now includes 14 total countries. In addition to these 14 countries, there are other supporting countries that are not official members but regularly contribute to its network. The 14 eyes alliance includes:

  • Australia

  • Canada

  • New Zealand

  • United Kingdom

  • United States

  • Denmark

  • Netherlands 

  • France

  • Norway

  • Germany

  • Belgium

  • Spain

  • Sweden

  • Italy

In addition to these members there are other countries that are considered partners or affiliates of the fourteen eyes alliance. These additional countries include:

  • Israel

  • Japan

  • South Korea

  • Singapore

  • British Overseas territories (e.g. British virgin islands)

Why Fourteen Eyes is a potential concern

The reason the fourteen eyes alliance is such a problem is that it allows governments to spy on their own citizens by using other countries as a proxy. For example the US intelligence agencies may not be able to legally spy on their own citizens but they may ask another member’s intelligence service to spy on US citizens for them and feed them the information. In return the US government would do the same for that member country and there’s not a whole lot that can be done because it’s a completely different country and doesn’t fall under US jurisdiction. After the Edward Snowden incident, I don’t think anyone can deny the fact that countries spy on their citizens and alliances like this make it even harder to prevent.

Why Fourteen Eyes is necessary

This may be an overused phrase but having a good intelligence program is literally a matter of national security. It was originally created as an intelligence-sharing agreement during the cold war to decrypt soviet intelligence. Since then agreements like fourteen eyes continues to provide member nations with important information that can be used for many different goals. Many people are against the idea of government’s spying on their citizens and it is a concern. However, I don’t think any intelligence agency would be doing their job well if they didn’t create alliances like this, it makes perfect sense to pool the resources of your allies so you can get information on potential threats to your country. Whether alliances like fourteen eyes are good or bad really depends on how the information is being used behind the scenes. But it’s important that countries work together and share information when it’s mutually beneficial. 

How to avoid fourteen eyes surveillance

Now if you want to avoid being spied on you can use VPN service providers to help protect your communications while your online. However, if your VPN service provider is in one of the countries that is associated with the fourteen eyes alliance then you would still be at risk of having your information shared with your local government. So it’s important to choose a service provider who’s headquarters are not located in any of the aforementioned countries so that they are less likely to leak the information. Secondly, you also want to find a VPN provider that doesn’t log your online traffic. Assuming they are telling the truth, there won’t be any records of your internet activity for someone to get access to. However, it’s important to note that other superpowers such as Russia and China have their own intelligence programs so just because it’s not on this list doesn’t mean it’s not being looked at. But depending on your situation, you can use your own discretion. 


Fourteen eyes is a surveillance agreement where the member countries agree to share intelligence with one another. It has an impact on global communications because of how easy it is for governments to spy on people over the internet. It also allows member nations to circumvent local laws and spy on their citizens by using other member nations as a proxy. Many people worry that this will allow them to spy on millions of people and infringe on their privacy rights, especially following the Edward Snowden situation that highlighted government surveillance. However, programs like this have legitimate value and will continue to be used to serve the best interest of member nations. For people that are concerned about having their information watched by their government, the best counter move is to find a good VPN service provider that is not hosted in any of the countries associated with fourteen eyes.