5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, & 14 Eyes Countries – What You NEED to Know

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When talking about international intelligence-sharing agreements, things can get complicated fast. Don’t worry—we are going to quickly walk you through the key information about the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes Alliances.

These alliances may pose a risk to your privacy, but we’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to protect your data and keep your online activity anonymous.

Find out below what these alliances are and how they can affect VPN users like you. We have also included a country-by-country guide to VPN jurisdictions.

Table of Contents

What Is the 5-Eyes Alliance?

The Five Eyes Alliance arose out of a cold war era intelligence pact called the UKUSA Agreement. This was originally an intelligence-sharing agreement between the United States and the UK aimed at decrypting Soviet Russian intelligence.

By the late 1950s, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand had also joined the Alliance. These five English-speaking countries make up the Five Eyes Alliance as we know it today. The intelligence-sharing agreement between these five countries has only strengthened over time, as it has extended to surveillance of online activity.

For many years, this arrangement was a well-kept secret between the five nations. Its existence wasn’t discovered by the public until 2003. Things started to become clearer in 2013 after Edward Snowden leaked a number of documents that he obtained while working as an NSA contractor.

These documents exposed widespread government surveillance of citizens’ online activity and contained evidence that the international intelligence-sharing network is more extensive than previously thought.

In addition to the core nations of the Five Eyes Alliance, the existence of two other international intelligence-sharing agreements has been confirmed. These two agreements, known as the Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes Alliances, may not be as tight-knit as the Five Eyes Alliance, but they still have wide implications for internet privacy.

Here is a brief breakdown of each of the three Alliances:

Five Eyes: US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand
Nine Eyes: Five Eyes + Denmark, France, Holland, Norway
Fourteen Eyes: Nine Eyes + Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Spain

The Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes Alliances are essentially extensions of the original Five Eyes Alliance. While these countries may not all share as much information with each other as the Five Eyes Alliance, they still actively and willingly participate in international intelligence-sharing.

In addition to these confirmed alliances, it is also worth mentioning another handful of countries that have been caught or suspected of exchanging information with the Fourteen Eyes Alliance.

Third Party Contributors: Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea

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How Can This Affect VPN Users?

The intelligence-sharing practices of these countries have wide implications for internet users and VPNs in particular. It is safe to assume that if any of these 14 nations gains access to your data online, your data can then be shared with other countries.

It all comes down to who has jurisdiction over your online activity when you are using a VPN. There are several layers to consider.

Is it your physical location? The server location? Or the VPN provider’s business location? If you really want to be safe, it is best to know the laws and practices of all three.

Knowledge is Power

You need to be aware of the online laws and regulations of the country you live in. For example, is VPN use even legal in your country? In most cases, the answer is yes, but not always.

Another important consideration is the country where your VPN provider is registered as a business. It is strongly recommended that you do not choose a VPN provider based in a country associated with the Fourteen Eyes Alliance if you are concerned about online privacy.

Depending on the country it is based in, your VPN provider could be forced to hand over information to the government about its users. This data could then be shared with other countries in the alliance. You may not even know that your privacy has been breached.

If you want to be extremely cautious, you should also be familiar with the surveillance practices of the country where the server you are using is located, regardless of the VPN provider’s business location.

Why No-Logs Policies Are Important

The many ways that VPNs can fall under the jurisdiction of various governments is why the best VPNs for privacy have strict no-logs policies. This means that they do not retain any kind of identifying information about their users or their online activity.

A great example of this policy in action comes from the well-known VPN provider ExpressVPN. A Turkish police investigation that involved an ExpressVPN user tried to compel the provider to hand over identifying data.

Despite their best attempts, authorities were unable to find any identifying information due to ExpressVPN’s strict no-logs policy.

As comforting as this story is, there are also known cases of VPN providers claiming to have a no-logs policy who then gave out users’ sensitive information to government authorities.

It may not be enough for a VPN provider to claim to offer a no-logs policy, particularly for VPN providers that fall under the jurisdiction of countries in the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes Alliances.

Country-by-Country Guide to VPN Jurisdictions

This guide will help you gain a better understanding of the countries that may have jurisdiction over your online activity and VPN use.

For each of the 35 countries listed, you will find whether VPNs are legal, which intelligence-sharing Alliances the country is part of, and which popular VPNs are based there. You will also get a brief overview of each country’s relevant internet laws and censorship practices.

 

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Australia

  • Member of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes Alliances
  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Australia: Celo VPN, VPNSecure.Me

In general, Australia does not place any restrictions on internet use or access, and VPNs are completely legal.

However, Australia is a core member of the Five Eyes Alliance. You may not be able to ensure the privacy of your data if it goes through or is stored in this country due to intelligence sharing agreements.

Australia also requires telecommunication companies to store metadata for two years, and there have been a number of reported cases of Australian law enforcement accessing encrypted data.

Belarus

  • VPNs are NOT legal

Although the majority of citizens have internet access in Belarus, the government heavily censors online content. Any web pages critical to the government are blocked, particularly during election season.

Use of a VPN is also illegal in Belarus. You could receive a hefty fine if you are caught using a VPN to bypass geo-restricted content.

Belgium

  • Member of Fourteen Eyes Alliance
  • VPNs ARE legal

Internet access in Belgium is unrestricted, and the country has a strong commitment to freedom of press and freedom of speech.

However, internet providers in Belgium are subject to warrants and may be required to block certain websites that are engaged in illegal activities. Additionally, holocaust denial and incitement to hatred are offenses punishable by prison time.

British Virgin Islands

  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in BVI: ExpressVPN

Although the British Virgin Islands is a territory of the UK, it is also self-governed by its own laws and legislature. This territory operates outside of any intelligence-sharing agreements, which is good news for VPNs based here.

Telecommunications companies based in the British Virgin Islands are not subject to any data retention laws or legal government surveillance.

Bulgaria

  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Bulgaria: VPNArea

Bulgaria has laws in place that protect freedom of speech, freedom of press, and arbitrary government interference with individuals’ privacy.

The country has received some criticism for permitting prosecution to request electronic data without court authorization. There are also concerns that corruption in the government and media may be compromising the country’s freedom of press and safety of journalists, but there have been no reports to date of this extending to restrictions to internet freedom.

Canada

Canada has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to free and unrestricted internet access, including an initiative to provide universal internet access to all its citizens. Canadian law has strong protections for freedom of speech and press, and the government has expressed support for net neutrality.

However, Canada is also a core member of the Five Eyes Alliance. Data that goes through or is stored in Canada is subject to intelligence sharing agreements.

China

  • Only government-approved VPNs are legal in China
  • Popular VPNs based in China: Turbo VPN

China has been repeatedly rated by Freedom House as the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom. Restrictions on internet activity have increased even further with the introduction of a cybersecurity law that imposes heavy financial consequences on telecommunication companies that do not follow regulations.

In addition to heavy censorship and surveillance, China also requires data localization and real-name registration for internet companies. Telecommunications companies based in China are required to hand over any data requested during government investigations.

Even many foreign tech companies, including Apple, have been forced to comply with the new oppressive regulations for Chinese users.

VPN providers are required to request government approval before providing access to the global network. Internet users who are caught accessing the international internet network using VPNs without government approval are subject to fines.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic does not generally restrict internet access and has laws in place to protect freedom of expression. There are several exceptions to these protections. Hate speech, Holocaust denial, and denial of Communist-era crimes are not considered protected speech.

Internet providers are required to block access to certain sites that provide access to untaxed and unregulated foreign lotteries.

Some internet providers based in the Czech Republic also have been known to block content that promotes child pornography or racism. There are no known reports of government surveillance of online activity.

Denmark

  • Member of Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes Alliances
  • VPNs ARE legal

Denmark has strong protections in place on freedom of speech, including a specific provision against censorship of any kind.

Although there are few government-obligated restrictions on online content, all major internet service providers based in Denmark are cooperating with police initiatives to block child pornography. The majority of Danish internet users are subject to this filter. Certain torrenting sites are also blocked by some providers.

Since Denmark is a known member of the Nine Eyes Alliance, data that goes through Denmark may not be private due to intelligence-sharing agreements.

Finland

There are no government-mandated restrictions placed on internet access in Finland. Some sites that have been reported to contain child pornography may be blocked by certain internet service providers.

Although this filter was encouraged by Finnish police, ultimately it was voluntary. Providers that have implemented the filter have received some criticism for also blocking some pornography sites that were not associated with child pornography.

France

  • Member of Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes Alliances
  • VPNs ARE legal

Although France supports freedom of speech and allows unfiltered access to online content, there have been concerns about several government proposals to combat fake news and address terrorist threats.

These initiatives have led to wider surveillance and data collection practices, including increased intelligence-sharing with Fourteen Eyes allies.

Germany

Germany has expressed a strong commitment to respecting privacy and freedom of speech, but this dedication has clear limits. Several pieces of legislation have passed that expand Germany’s online surveillance powers both internally and internationally.

Laws permit police to monitor the online activity of citizens even when there is no suspicion of criminal activity. Germany has also received criticism for its controversial data retention law.

The government also is heavily involved in initiatives to censor hate speech from social media and other online outlets.

Gibraltar

  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Gibraltar: Buffered, IVPN

Similar to the British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar is an autonomous British territory with its own elected government.

However, Gibraltar is not completely independent when it comes to defense and security matters. The UK reserves the right to assume power and make decisions when it comes to foreign policy and security, including implementing surveillance.

This means that although Gibraltar is not part of a formal intelligence-sharing Alliance, it is still not safe from the spying eyes of the Fourteen Eyes Alliance.

Greece

  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Greece: ZoogVPN

Greece’s laws contain clear provisions protecting freedom of speech and press, and there is no evidence that the government censors, blocks, or otherwise interferes with online content.

However, the judiciary system has made it clear that privacy laws in Greece do not extend to internet communications. Though the decision is controversial, the police do have the right to legally monitor citizens’ online activity and data.

Hong Kong

Although a Chinese territory, Hong Kong maintains autonomy and is able to self-govern for the most part. Chinese censorship and geo-restrictions do not affect Hong Kong, leaving the territory with almost unlimited internet access, with the exception of some web content that promotes pornography or piracy.

That being said, online surveillance by Hong Kong’s governing bodies is common, and there have been concerns about growing attempts from mainland China to increase control of Hong Kong.

Iran

  • Only government-approved VPNs are legal in Iran

Internet freedom in Iran is classified as highly restricted by Freedom House. Antigovernment protests have resulted in significant disruption of internet connections and government blocking of major social media platforms.

VPN providers are required to request government approval before providing access to the global network. Internet users who are caught accessing the international internet network using VPNs without government approval are at risk of up to 1 year of prison time, though in reality, this is rare.

This law is mainly enforced with vocal opponents of the government rather than average citizens.

Israel

  • Third Party Contributor to Five Eyes Alliance
  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Israel: Hola VPN

Israel provides strong legal protections of freedom of speech, including on the internet. There are no known cases or suspicions of the government censoring online content.

Although Israel is not officially a member of any intelligence-sharing Alliance, there are a number of known cases of Israel working closely with the US on surveillance initiatives. This benefits the US greatly since Israeli intelligence agencies have wider-reaching powers than the NSA.

Italy

  • Member of Fourteen Eyes Alliance
  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Italy: AirVPN

Italy protects freedom of expression, and residents can take advantage of mostly unrestricted internet access, with the exception of some filtering of web content promoting child pornography and gambling.

Italy has been slow to expand internet infrastructure. As of 2018, only a little over 60% of the population had consistent internet access according to Freedom House.

There are also a number of internet privacy concerns in Italy, including a provision requiring telecommunications companies to retain internet data for up to six years.

Japan

  • Suspected Contributor to Five Eyes Alliance
  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Japan: VPN Gate

Censorship is prohibited in Japan due to strong protections of freedom of speech. Residents of Japan can enjoy free and unrestricted internet access, though some service providers voluntarily filter certain content such as child pornography.

There have been growing internet privacy concerns, particularly since the Japanese Supreme Court chose not to limit the common police practice of monitoring the online activity of Muslim residents, even those without probable links to terrorism.

Japanese intelligence agencies have access to strong surveillance equipment and have been known to cooperate with US intelligence agencies in the past.

Malaysia

  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Malaysia: Hide Me VPN

There are no constitutional rights to privacy in Malaysia, and the government has broad power to seize and retain data. Malaysia’s internet freedom has also become more restricted due to the Fake News Act of 2018, a government initiative to censor the spread of fake news.

In general, though, freedom of speech has risen in Malaysia as violence and threats against journalists and internet users have become less frequent. The government has broadly increased access to high-speed internet, including a healthy open market for internet providers.

Netherlands

  • Member of Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes Alliances
  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in the Netherlands: Goose VPN

The Netherlands has a close intelligence-sharing relationship with foreign nations as part of the Nine Eyes Alliance. The Netherlands provides its citizens with free and unrestricted internet access, including strong government opposition to censorship.

Recently, however, a previously failed proposal was supported by the Dutch Court that requires internet providers to block The Pirate Bay due to copyright infringement.

New Zealand

  • Member of Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes Alliances
  • VPNs ARE legal

New Zealand supports freedom of speech, and there is no government-mandated censorship online. The government does offer voluntary support to internet providers who wish to block certain web content.

New Zealand intelligence agencies benefit from the intelligence and data-sharing network of the Five Eyes Alliance.

Norway

  • Member of Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes Alliances
  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Norway: Opera VPN

Residents of Norway enjoy some of most unrestricted internet access in the world, both in terms of internet freedom and public access. Citizens have a constitutional right to access government information.

Like much of Europe, some internet providers may voluntarily filter child pornography sites. Norway also has a close intelligence-sharing relationship with foreign nations as part of the Nine Eyes Alliance.

Panama

  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Panama: NordVPN

Panama is not part of any intelligence-sharing Alliance, and the constitution protects all forms of expression. Residents have free and unrestricted access to the internet.

The law in Panama explicitly prohibits arbitrary government or police interference with privacy. Wiretaps and monitoring are not allowed without judicial approval. There have been claims from some citizens that they have been subject to unauthorized government monitoring, but this is largely unconfirmed.

Romania

For the most part, residents of Romania have free and unrestricted internet access. There are some government-mandated filters in place targeting child pornography. The government reserves the right to block access to sites that do not comply with laws surrounding pornography.

Romania is considered by many to be privacy-friendly due to its repeated refusal to comply with European Union mandatory data retention laws, declaring them unconstitutional and an infringement on rights to privacy and free expression.

Russia

Russian internet access is classified as not free by Freedom House. The Russian government exercises broad power in the international cyberspace and actively works to filter content and spread information that benefits Russian authorities.

Russia is considered to be a large enemy of the internet by Reporters Without Borders. Russian intelligence agencies also practice widespread surveillance both domestically and internationally.

VPN providers are required to request government approval. Internet users who are caught using VPNs without government approval are subject to fines.

San Marino

  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in San Marino: SpyOFF

San Marino has strong legal protections of freedom of speech and is strongly opposed to censorship of any kind. There are no known cases of San Marino monitoring private citizens or cooperating with international intelligence-sharing agreements.

Seychelles

Seychelles operates outside the influence of international intelligence-sharing communities. It provides its residents with free and mainly unrestricted internet access. The main exception involves the country’s strict defamation laws. There have also been reported cases of the government censoring certain online political content.

Singapore

  • Third Party Contributor to the Five Eyes Alliance
  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in Singapore: Ivacy

Although most Singapore residents have internet access, the government does censor content both through government-mandates and with financial and legal pressures on service providers. The official list of blocked websites is kept secret by the government.

There have also been reports of Singapore cooperating with intelligence initiatives of the Five Eyes Alliance.

South Korea

  • Third Party Contributor to the Five Eyes Alliance
  • VPNs ARE legal

Though South Koreans enjoy significantly greater internet freedom than their neighbors to the north, South Korea is still rated as only partly free by Freedom House due to limits on freedom of speech for political content and defamation cases.

Citizens in South Korea have a constitutional right to privacy. However, internet service providers have been encouraged to develop real-name systems for users, which raises concerns for internet freedom and privacy.

In addition, South Korea has been reported to cooperate with intelligence-sharing initiatives of the Five Eyes Alliance in the past.

Spain

  • Fourteen Eyes Alliance Member
  • VPNs ARE legal

Spain has strict laws in place to protect not only freedom of speech, but also personal data and privacy. However, due to Spain’s relationship with foreign intelligence agencies in the Fourteen Eyes Alliance, privacy isn’t a guarantee.

Sweden

Sweden’s legal system protects freedom of speech, prohibits most censorship, and bans arbitrary interference with privacy. In order to monitor online traffic, including matters of national security, intelligence agencies are required to first get court permission.

However, Sweden’s relationship with foreign intelligence agencies in the Fourteen Eyes Alliance means that online privacy may not be entirely secure.

Switzerland

Switzerland is widely considered to be a friend of internet freedom and personal privacy. Citizens enjoy a constitutional right to freedom of speech, and breaches of privacy are punishable by law.

Although citizens voted to approve a referendum allowing the government to monitor citizens’ online activities, there has not been evidence that this power has been abused.

Switzerland is also not known to cooperate with international intelligence-sharing agreements.

United Kingdom

  • Founding Member of Five Eyes Alliance
  • VPNs ARE legal
  • Popular VPNs based in the UK: HideMyAss!, SaferVPN

The United Kingdom guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of information for citizens. Although protection of privacy is also legally protected, there has been a concerning trend toward increased government and police surveillance.

Government authorities justify the growing surveillance of online activity by claiming it is necessary to fight terrorism and child abuse. Due to its role as one of the two founding members of the Five Eyes Alliance, the UK has access to a wide network of international intelligence and surveillance.

United States of America

There are strong constitutional protections of freedom of speech and freedom of press in the United States. The US has expressed a strong commitment to protecting privacy and internet freedom.

In light of a number of controversies surrounding government surveillance, it is questionable how strong the US’s commitment to privacy really is. Increased surveillance has mostly been justified by counterterrorism efforts.

The US has access to one of the most sophisticated online surveillance systems in the world, and it also is able to take advantage of a very strong network of international intelligence and surveillance as one of the founding members of the Five Eyes Alliance.

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The 5 Best VPNs Located Outside 5-Eyes Countries

1. NordVPN

NordVPN Benefits Infographic

Top-notch privacy protection is one of the reasons that NordVPN is our Editor’s Choice. NordVPN operates in Panama, outside the jurisdiction of the 14-eyes Alliance. This means that NordVPN can’t be forced to hand over your data to any government.

In addition to its advanced security features — including 2048-bit encryption and a variety of advanced leak-protection protocols — NordVPN boasts a strict no-logs policy, with no known case of a privacy breach.

Given NordVPN’s security, speed, and ability to bypass even the strictest geoblocks, it’s no wonder that users are consistently impressed.

NordVPN also offers a 7-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee for users who want to try out the service.

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2. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN benefits

ExpressVPN is known for its lightning-fast streaming speeds and ability to bypass tough geoblocks on popular content.

Even more impressive is the way that ExpressVPN’s competitive privacy and security features hold up under pressure. ExpressVPN, based in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands, has conclusively proved that it does not retain any data logs and is unable to provide any identifying information on its users to governments.

Other top security features include AES 256-CBC military-grade encryption and a variety of leak-protection protocols. Users love ExpressVPN’s large number of supported devices and responsive customer support.

ExpressVPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and a free trial for mobile devices.

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3. CyberGhost

cyberghost multiple devices

CyberGhost operates outside the jurisdiction of the 14-eyes Alliance in privacy-friendly Romania. CyberGhost has repeatedly expressed its commitment to user privacy, and it takes its no-logs policy very seriously.

CyberGhost also boasts impressive AES-256 encryption and offers top-notch security protocols to protect users’ data. Customers praise CyberGhost for its user-friendly interface that comes with a list of preconfigured settings to choose from based on your favorite streaming services.

New users can also take advantage of a 7-day free trial and a 45-day money-back guarantee.

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4. VyprVPN

VyprVPN is based in Switzerland, a country outside of the 14-eyes Alliance that takes internet privacy very seriously. VyprVPN and its parent company, Golden Frog, have stated a commitment to transparency and honesty when it comes to privacy concerns.

Customers who are extremely concerned about privacy should know that VyprVPN is open about the fact that some user data is kept for up to 30 days for billing and troubleshooting purposes.

Aside from this, VyprVPN offers competitive security features, including 256-bit encryption and a NAT Firewall to protect you from malware. VyprVPN is also a fan-favorite for its ability to bypass tough government censorship using its proprietary Chameleon technology.

VyprVPN offers new users a 3-day free trial and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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5. Trust.Zone

trust zone devices

Trust.Zone is a great choice for privacy-conscious users who are looking for affordable VPN protection. Trust.Zone’s security features include AES-256-bit encryption, a kill switch, OpenVPN, and L2TP over IPSec.

Those concerned about data leaks will be pleased by Trust.Zone’s no-logs policy and transparency when it comes to user privacy. Trust.Zone offers users a warrant canary, which indicates that no government has every asked Trust.Zone for any user details.

Trust.Zone is based outside the jurisdiction of the 14-eyes Alliance in the Seychelles islands. Users praise Trust.Zone’s speed and ability to access popular streaming sites.

You can try out the service with a 3-day free trial and a 10-day money-back guarantee.

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Summary

Online privacy is becoming a bigger concern for internet users as international surveillance practices grow larger and more effective. There are many reasons to be wary of government powers having access to your data and online activity, particularly when international intelligence-sharing agreements can allow nations to bypass their own privacy protection laws.

We are always trying to provide you with up-to-date information, so you can make informed decisions about your internet activity. To get a reliable, secure VPN for a great price, don’t miss our Deals and Coupons page.

Further Reading:

Tor vs VPN: Which is More Secure?

The Best No-Logs VPNs

VPN Leak Check

VPN Protocol Comparison

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