MyVPNHound have created an info-graphic detailing which country major VPNs are based. You should consider this when choosing your VPN.
If you use the internet and want to protect your privacy, you likely use a VPN to safeguard your personal information. More people than ever became concerned about their online privacy after Edward Snowden leaked documents that prove the government conducts massive surveillance on its citizens. According to the leaked documents, the government collects phone call data and text messages on a large scale.
The government also works with internet providers to monitor the emails and other online activities of countless people across the globe. The government can use programs that automatically flag people for researching certain topics or using predefined keywords in their digital communications. For example, a computer might flag someone for using words associated with known terror networks.
You don’t even have to be a target of government surveillance for the government to collect and store the details of your online activity. Snowden is a former CIA and NSA employee who disagreed with how the government monitors and tracks its own people.
He tried bringing up his concerns with NSA management, but nobody took his complaints seriously. Snowden’s failed attempts to contest the NSA and CIA’s massive surveillance program prompted him to go public with this information. After collecting and releasing the details of many government surveillance programs, Snowden fled to Russia. This guide explains why your VPN’s country matters and how the five-eyes alliance works.
Benefits of Using a Secure VPN
Using a VPN comes with many benefits to which you would otherwise not have access. Having a secure VPN protects your data and prevents others from spying on you, but it also protects you from hackers. You might already know the importance of using a VPN when you use public Wi-Fi. Almost anyone can hack public Wi-Fi networks and see everything you do or submit, including bank account details and credit card numbers. Criminals can easily see the websites you visit and the videos you watch if you are on a public network, but a secure VPN protects you from that problem.
You should still use a VPN when you are at home if you don’t want your service provider to monitor your online activity. Your internet provider can see everything you do online unless you take steps to hide your data. When you use a VPN, the VPN encrypts your data and sends it to another network through a secure tunnel. Your internet provider will only see the encrypted data and won’t be able to determine what you do online. The VPN only decrypts the data once it reaches the destination server. Using a VPN makes it look like you are surfing the web from the location of your VPN’s server, and this feature allows you to overcome browsing and website restrictions implemented by your country.
5-Eyes Alliance Overview
Formed after the Cold War, the five-eyes alliance is a spy network between the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The network formed as a way for the United States and the United Kingdom to share intelligence data with each other, but it later expanded to include the other countries. The five-eyes alliance currently monitors and shares internet logs and other communications from anyone on its list.
No one government controls the five-eyes network, so it’s free to spy on anyone it wants without a good cause. Although the United States and the United Kingdom formed this alliance in the events following the Cold War, the public did not learn about its existence until 2003. You could find yourself on the list for any number of reasons and not even know about it. In fact, many celebrities and public figures are on the surveillance list and have their data shared among the countries involved in the network.
Many people use encryption technology to hide their data from the government and other people who want to invade their privacy. The five-eyes alliance tried pressuring technology companies into giving them a way around encryption so that they could see the exposed data, which would violate the privacy of countless people.
Signals Intelligence Overview
The five-eyes alliance uses signals intelligence to spy on the citizens of its own countries. The documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the alliance in addition to the tools it uses to monitor targets and the public. Through agreements formed with many technology companies, the government can access emails and text messages without needing to first get a warrant.
Anything you do or say online is subject to government tracking unless you take proactive steps to safeguard your privacy. If you are not already on the list, the government still saves your information and stores it in a database. It will use and share that information if you ever do anything that grabs their attention, prompting closer monitoring of your online activity.
Certain things you do or say in emails, text messages, phone conversations or even on message boards can trigger more intense monitoring from the five-eyes alliance. The alliance believes that citizens should give up their privacy for security, but they did not ask the public for their feedback on such decisions. Most people prefer keeping their privacy because they don’t want the government watching their every move. The five-eyes alliance threatens digital privacy and moves us one step closer to dictatorship.
9-Eyes and 14-Eyes Overview
The five-eyes alliance is bad enough on its own, and most people are outraged when they discover the existence of this spy network. Over time, other countries have formed similar networks that work closely with the five-eyes alliance to gather, collect and share information about the citizens of its countries. The nine-eyes alliance includes the same countries as the five-eyes alliance but also involves France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.
The recent documents that Snowden leaked revealed another collection of countries working together to perform massive surveillance on unsuspecting citizens. Known as SIGINT Seniors Europe, this group consists of 14 countries that monitor the online actions of people within its jurisdiction, and it works with the original five-eyes alliance to compile that data and create a complete intelligence profile. The 14-eyes alliance includes all the members of the nine-eyes alliance but also involves Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden.
The governments of these countries have put so many people on their surveillance lists that they can no longer accurately track legitimate threats to their nations. Random people can find themselves on the list for researching something online that triggers a red flag or because they angered someone with connections to the security industry. If you do anything online that raises one or more of the red flags, you will find yourself on the list before you know it.
Why It Matters When Choosing a VPN
The massive surveillance alliance plays a critical role in the VPN you choose if you value your digital privacy. If your VPN server is in a country that’s a member of the alliance, the government can still track everything you do or say while you are online. Anyone with connections to the security industry can then request logs of your internet activity to see what you have been doing, and there is almost no limit to what they can monitor.
They can see your web searches, the websites you visit and the emails you send, but they can also see what bank you use and the places you visit. They won’t even have to request that information from your VPN provider if they want to access it.
When they want to see what you have been doing online, many VPN providers within the alliance countries automatically grant the government access to their records. Those with the right connections can then search your name and see everything you do when you go online, and they don’t even need to hack your computer or portable devices to do so.
Your VPN Provider’s Country Matters
Some people think they are safe if their VPN’s server is located in a country outside of the 14-eyes alliance network. While having an IP address outside the network makes it much harder for the government to track what you do online, you are still not 100% safe from surveillance. When your VPN service provider is in one of the alliance countries, the government can always try demanding your information.
The government can even try getting court orders to force the VPN to hand over your personal details if you are not careful. Do some research on any VPN provider before you use it to protect yourself and your privacy, and you will be glad you did. You want a VPN provider that operates from outside the 14 countries that collect and share data. It’s also essential that the VPN’s servers are also located outside of those countries if you don’t want to take any chances.
Your Country Matters
The country in which you live is another factor you must consider if you care about your privacy. Some countries, for example, ban residents from using VPNs to access the internet. Check your local, state and national laws before using a VPN so that you know what risks you might be facing.
Even if using a VPN is illegal in your area, only you can decide if you are still willing to take that risk despite the law. If you want to use a VPN when doing so is not legal, look for ones that let you pay with bitcoin or another cryptocurrency. Using cryptocurrency to make online purchases makes it a little harder for the government to track what you do, giving you an increased layer of security.
You should also consider the laws in your area that relate to searches of personal property. You don’t want the government coming into your home and going through your devices, so you should also use private browsers and take additional steps to secure your private information from prying eyes.
Get a VPN with a No-Logs Policy
You can take your privacy even further by getting a VPN that has a no-logs policy. Many VPN providers track what their users do but don’t advertise that fact, so asking a few questions before you sign up could save you a lot of trouble down the road. You also want to know how long a VPN provider keeps your logs and what information they store.
Some VPNs might log all the websites you visit, but others only log the dates and times that you connected to the network. The government could use the dates and times you connected against you if they suspect you of doing something they don’t like, so always look for VPNs that store no logs.
The five-eyes alliance is a global surveillance network that spies on unsuspecting citizens, and it monitors almost everything you do while you are online if you are a target. The alliance even collects massive amounts of data from people who are not targets so that it can later review the data if you do something that puts you on their radar.
Getting an encrypted VPN is an excellent step in the right direction, but you must keep several things in mind before moving forward. Ensure that the VPN you use does not operate from within the government’s reach. You should also ensure that the servers you use are outside the government’s reach if you want to be as safe as possible. Even though nothing can guarantee that your information is secure, you can take many steps to improve your odds of maintaining your privacy when you go online.
One of the best VPNs based outside of the 14 eyes alliance is NordVPN, you please check out our review.