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Global Mass Surveillance - The Fourteen Eyes

The UKUSA Agreement is an agreement between the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand to cooperatively collect, analyze, and share intelligence. Members of this group, known as the Five Eyes, focus on gathering and analyzing intelligence from different parts of the world. While Five Eyes countries have agreed to not spy on each other as adversaries, leaks by Snowden have revealed that some Five Eyes members monitor each other’s citizens and share intelligence to avoid breaking domestic laws that prohibit them from spying on their own citizens. The Five Eyes alliance also cooperates with groups of third party countries to share intelligence (forming the Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes), however Five Eyes and third party countries can and do spy on each other.

Five Eyes

  1. Australia
  2. Canada
  3. New Zealand
  4. United Kingdom
  5. United States of America

Nine Eyes

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

Fourteen Eyes

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

Why is it not recommended to choose a US VPN/Privacy based service?

Services based in the United States are not recommended because of the country’s surveillance programs, use of National Security Letters (NSLs) and accompanying gag orders, which forbid the recipient from talking about the request. This combination allows the government to secretly forcecompanies to grant complete access to customer data and transform the service into a tool of mass surveillance.

An example of this is Lavabit – a discontinued secure email service created by Ladar Levison. The FBI requested Snowden’s records after finding out that he used the service. Since Lavabit did not keep logs and email content was stored encrypted, the FBI served a subpoena (with a gag order) for the service’s SSL keys. Having the SSL keys would allow them to access communications (both metadata and unencrypted content) in real time for all of Lavabit’s customers, not just Snowden's.

Ultimately, Levison turned over the SSL keys and shut down the service at the same time. The US government then threatened Levison with arrest, saying that shutting down the service was a violation of the court order.

Key disclosure law - Who is required to hand over the encryption keys to authorities?

Mandatory key disclosure laws require individuals to turn over encryption keys to law enforcement conducting a criminal investigation. How these laws are implemented (who may be legally compelled to assist) vary from nation to nation, but a warrant is generally required. Defenses against key disclosure laws include steganography and encrypting data in a way that provides plausible deniability.

Steganography involves hiding sensitive information (which may be encrypted) inside of ordinary data (for example, encrypting an image file and then hiding it in an audio file). With plausible deniability, data is encrypted in a way that prevents an adversary from being able to prove that the information they are after exists (for example, one password may decrypt benign data and another password, used on the same file, could decrypt sensitive data).

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