Events & Distinguished Lectures
From a mere communication network, the Internet has rapidly evolved into a global platform for social networking, entertainment, education, trade, and political activism, used by more than two billion users. Users have matured from mere consumers of information, goods and services to content publishers, interactive participants, trade partners and sources of advice, opinion and expertise. A user both produces and consumes content in blogs, tweets, social networks, and other online communities. Users pervasively use online services to gain assistance in day-to-day activities; they are targeted by advertisement, and they routinely search, buy, review, and rate products on the Internet.
Assuring online privacy of individual end-users has become, in this context, a formidable and largely unsolved problem and remains a formidable challenge for users, providers, and legislators alike, particularly given the dynamics of the underlying developments, e.g., the pervasiveness of mobile devices and the rapid proliferation of online social networks and their rich, multimodal data. This has resulted in an unprecedented dissemination of personal data, amplified by the advent of business models monetizing such data. These rely on information intentionally disclosed online by a user, on information disclosed as a side effect of online user interactions, on the ubiquity of smartphones – and, soon, wearable cameras, position and health sensors – that produce a constantly increasing stream of sensitive data. Users are overwhelmed by the complexity of online data accessibility and dissemination in an ever-growing technical landscape. They are offered little to no support for understanding their privacy exposure, and struggle with privacy settings that are technically motivated and notoriously difficult to handle. It is often difficult to ensure compliance with new legislation, e.g., mandating users’ control of their personal information, for lack of technological means to enforce such control.
The continuous trend to more data dissemination and collection, and the increasingly ubiquitous nature of the underlying IT infrastructures, will continue to position online privacy as a key challenge to our society.
The DFG-funded Collaborative Research Center 1223 on "Methods and Tools for Understanding and Controlling Privacy" will provide conceptual and tangible contributions in several directions. This includes for example models for identifying and quantifying private information, new techniques for hypothetically simulating user actions to assess their privacy impacts beforehand, and new algorithms for privacy-enhancing technologies for online interactions and mobile encounters.
Achieving an overarching foundation for providing privacy in tomorrow’s Internet goes far beyond traditional security and privacy research. In our view it necessitates a paradigm shift to cope with the wealth and heterogeneity of user-to-user and user-to-provider interactions as well as the resulting challenges to privacy, requiring expertise from a wide range of computer science areas.