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CTemplar email security ARTICLE

Privacy as Seen Through Fourteen Eyes

The history of citizen surveillance boils down to one simple theory: The more eyes you have watching citizens both friend and foe, the easier it is for governments to maintain peace and order.

The first two countries in the world to recognize and implement this method of collaborative surveillance were the U.S. and U.K., who officially enacted a secret treaty between themselves in the 1940’s known as the UKUSA Agreement.

This intelligence-gathering pact was established to bolster each country’s individual strength through shared surveillance of other nations around the world.

The Creation of Five Eyes

Within a few years, they extended this accord to include Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This group became known as the Five Eyes (FVEY).

During this time, member countries realized that, while there would surely be an outcry if they surveilled their own citizens, other FVEY countries could do their homeland surveillance for them.

And so, a system intended to gather intelligence during wartime was eventually applied to billions of private communications worldwide, essentially becoming one of the most comprehensive known espionage alliances in history.

Five Eyes Grows to Nine, Then Fourteen

It soon became clear that having an international coalition of eyes wasn’t such a bad thing. As a result, the FVEY were joined by Denmark, France, Holland, and Norway to create the Nine Eyes (9EY).

But the UKUSA agreement still had plenty of territories left to cover—namely a need for more exchange of military intelligence—and the agreement was later extended to Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and Spain as well, establishing an official network of collaborating countries called the Fourteen Eyes (14EY).

The Snowden Leak

For decades, citizens were unaware of the level of surveillance that was taking place via FVEY; it reached incredible levels, which may explain why the group kept growing.

FVEY’s interests evolved from military and diplomatic to become what Edward Snowden said after his groundbreaking 2013 intelligence leak, a “supra-national intelligence organization that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries.”

After the Snowden leak, it became clear the FVEY had been spying on its citizens and sharing their findings to avoid the restrictive domestic regulations on surveillance.

What 14EY Means for Your Business

When fourteen watchful eyes are aimed at your business, there’s little that can go by unnoticed or recorded, which is precisely why you should fully understand how their laws can affect your privacy.

The regulations this group has created and/or circumvented can quickly and easily compromise any piece of sensitive information you transmit.

Simply put, you can’t find complete digital privacy in any 14EY country, no matter what they say. The strength of the laws in 14EY countries can, in many cases, completely overpower any would-be legal discussion of who has a right to your data—they take your information, plain and simple.

A Real-Life Example: The National Security Letter

The United States is home to an investigative tool, like a subpoena, known as a national security letter (NSL).

An NSL gives federal agencies such as the FBI the ability to take any information, from any company, at any moment, using the ongoing justification of national security. This means it doesn’t matter what your service’s privacy statement is.

When a 14EY government steps in with an NSL, they do not need a judge’s approval—they just do it. They are fully authorized to seek any information they deem “relevant” to national security, a right only strengthened by the start of the global war on terror in 2001.

Backers of 14EY may argue that governments don’t have the ability to read the text of an email. While that is true, governments can acquire the information they need without ever reading one.

When the U.S. government learned Edward Snowden had used the email service known as Lavabit to contact lawyers and activists, the Stored Communications Act allowed them to demand his metadata in addition to the private SSL keys of all Lavabit customers.

Of course, the company had no choice but to comply, suspending all operations without much in the way of explanation, primarily because the company was placed under a legal gag order preventing them from saying a word to anyone.

The lesson here is clear. “Privacy” is relative in 14EY countries. That’s why we built Ctemplar.

Digital security is extremely hard to implement on your own. We’ve built a service you can trust and keep the eyes off your important information. Please review our credentials and configuration to see the advantages of Ctemplar.

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