About This Guide

The CitizenWeb Project Guide is a comprehensive walkthrough to Digital Sovereignty. Explaining Linux, personal data servers, data security and Free Software to the masses.

If you are …

  • Concerned about the creeping power that unaccountable corporations like Google and Facebook have over our lives
  • Living under an oppressive regime and need ways to securely host or share sensitive information or political speech
  • Annoyed by the closing “walled gardens” of Google, Microsoft and Apple and the rampant consumerism that comes with it
  • Worried about governments snooping in your email and cloud data
  • Tired of the constant erosion of our rights online with no real alternatives

… then read ahead, because these guides are for you!

There are alternatives to the closed corporate ecosystems of Google, Microsoft and Apple. There are alternatives to the daily destruction of privacy rights that occurs online. Take your data back into your own hands, and lose -none- of the functionality that you rely on. Build a server with all of the features you need and none of the ads and bloatware that you don’t need. And hit the titans like Google where it hurts - deny them the ad revenue they get from selling your personal information to the highest bidder.

At this time, two sections are included:

  • Linux: Dive into the basics of Linux, the free and open source operating system. Learn how to use software suites that, in most cases, won’t cost you a dime - and are 100% open source. Use software that is customized to your interests, and learn to make your computer work for you. Never fear the changes or hassles another Windows version will bring!
  • Setting Up Your Personal Server: Choose the features that are important to you, and ones you may be interested in maintaining. Set up a server on your home network, and connect it to the Internet. Host your own email and website safely and securely. Access your files, media, contacts and calendars remotely — while keeping complete control of your data and who sees it.

There is also a bonus section with additional/advanced information that you may find pertinent, like how to backup and encrypt your data easily under Linux.

If you’re still not convinced why all of this is important, or if you aren’t even sure what it is: take a look at the articles in the Introduction, and read some of the arguments behind why -you- should pursue your digital sovereignty.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is “digital sovereignty?”

The term “digital sovereignty” is often used with respect to nation-states and how they construct and perceive their information systems. However we are using “digital sovereignty” on a personal level. Our conception of digital sovereignty revolves around three main points:

  1. Everyone should have the right to safely store their personal data, and control who gets access to it. This includes: those who simply wish to view our data, those who wish to erase it (like governments), AND those who wish to make money off of our data. We have the right to say NO, and we need solutions to keep us free from platforms that would abuse our right to choose.
  2. Everyone should have the right to freely access information, regardless of the platform it is stored on. Users are increasingly being asked to sacrifice their freedoms and wishes to serve corporate “branding” and interests. The physical frontiers of our world are fading to the virtual corporate frontiers of Facebook and Twitter, of Microsoft and Apple. These frontiers must not be allowed to constrict and toll the flow of information.
  3. Much like free software, everyone should have the right to freely view or modify the code behind the websites and protocols they utilize. For the vast majority of users, this will not be a concern; however it is extremely important in order to ensure the absence of backdoors, eavesdropping or monitoring of any kind. An open-source Internet is a safe and secure Internet for all of its users.

The best way to ensure that the above three conditions are met is to declare your digital sovereignty by securely hosting as much of your own data as you can, with the many open source options that are available today. For more information on Digital Sovereignty, visit the project website or read the Manifesto for a Decentralized Web.

Why is the project hosted and registered in Iceland?

This guide is dedicated for individuals who seek to publish or share content independent of the prying eyes of corporations and governments. It includes information on security and cryptography that could potentially be used to thwart oppressive regimes or safeguard information on whistleblowers. With the increasingly worrying state of the consolidation of internet powers and services in many Western nations, there is a real concern about publishing material that could be used to circumvent these restrictions.

For this reason, this site is based in Iceland, a country with robust information protection laws that may soon be included in the constitution. Iceland is home to the IMMI (Icelandic Modern Media Initiative), a comprehensive plan to encourage freedom of speech and freedom of publication in Iceland, like the world’s first true “free speech” haven. From the IMMI’s website:

In 2010 a group of free speech and digital rights activists, lawmakers, and civil society organizations convened in ReykjavĂ­k, Iceland, with the goal to create a collection of the worlds strongest media and free speech protection laws and see them implemented in the small north-Atlantic state of Iceland. By assessing the greatest threats to media freedoms and addressing each by looking at well made and successful laws from around the world, the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative promised to open up the philosophical discussion of free speech protection while offering Iceland new opportunities for social development and financial gain.

This guide is, therefore, based in Iceland as it has the most robust protection laws to defend free speech and free expression on the Internet of any Western country. This makes it impossible for certain Western nations to shut down this site or to render it inaccessible, short of enabling a national firewall.

Find out more about IMMI and why it is so awesome here.

Why is this guide not in Wiki format?

There are three reasons for this:

  1. This project has versions. Because software editions change frequently, it is important to have a guide that is updated often with the latest information. Also, not everyone will be using the most up-to-date version of the software available, and past versions will need to be made available in a usable format. Wikis are not the best way to achieve this while still assuring the other conditions.
  2. This project places an emphasis on accuracy. The information it contains must be confirmed as being accurate, as it can have important security implications otherwise. Moreover the maintainers would not have time to oversee the many edits that would take place on a Wiki platform. For that reason, this project has active maintainers that will manage its content and manually update it with contributions from users.
  3. This project has multiple formats. It is very important that the guides be available for distribution in as many ways as possible. Some may prefer to read it in PDF, others ePub, still others via a Torrent, and so on. In order to make the project’s data available in as many formats as possible, it is being edited via GitHub and then being organized from there.

Keep in mind that even though this guide is not available as a Wiki, it welcomes and encourages contributions. Anyone can contribute to new (or existing) versions of this guide by sending the contributors an email or by forking its repository on GitHub and submitting a pull request. The project is licensed with Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0, meaning that anyone can use or modify this guide for their own purposes, provided that they attribute the authors (The CitizenWeb Project) and that they in turn make their own modifications available under the same terms.

Where can I go for more resources…

  • … on using Linux? The best resource is likely going to be the official forums or Wiki pages for your chosen distribution. For Ubuntu, there are the Ubuntu Forums and the community documentation. Arch Linux has a fantastic Wiki and a helpful forum as well.
  • … on hosting a server? The Official Ubuntu Documentation is a decent resource to get started. Make sure you choose the right version for the software you are running. For more advanced tips and tutorials on various subjects, take a look at nixCraft and HowToForge.
  • … on securing my browsing and communications? Look up your local chapter of CryptoParty and download their excellent and comprehensive Handbook available in various formats. Also check out EncryptEverything for more tips.

About The Author

This guide was first written and produced by Jacob Cook. Jacob is a 23-year-old student, writer, developer and information activist originally from the United States, presently based in Canada. He devotes his time to editing The CitizenWeb Project, to writing about technology and radical politics on his blog, as well as contributing to a number of open source projects that deal with the push for a decentralized and democratized Internet for everyone. He can be reached via email (GPG), Twitter, or via his Tent entity (?) at https://jcook.cc.

Final Reminder

What this project IS:

A method to share information on the “how-tos” of data liberation and to emphasize the importance of decentralizing the internet to the general public.

What this project ISN’T:

An endorsement, either explicit or implied, of any illegal act performed using information obtained via this guide.