They will receive roughly 10 million Euro to research methods to protect Internet users against spying and fraud and to expose perpetrators without limiting trade, freedom of opinion or access to information on the Internet. The computer scientists held their own against about 450 other applications from all over Europe to approach our society's current challenges together.
This year, only a handful of research groups with internationally prominent scientists are receiving the highly renowned European award. The four professors named their research project "imPACT." The four capital letters represent the goals to which Michael Backes (Saarland University), Peter Druschel, Rupak Majumdar (both Max Planck Institute for Software Systems) and Gerhard Weikum (Max Planck Institute for Informatics) have devoted themselves.
The goals are protecting users' privacy when publishing content on the Internet and participating in online communities, ensuring accountability of users and providers so misbehavior can be detected, enabling compliance of software and services with user expectations and assessing the trustworthiness of information and services that a user consumes.
"So far we have no satisfactory solution for even one of these four topics. But these are essential properties for the Internet, which is used by two billion persons," says Michael Backes, professor of information security and cryptography at Saarland University and spokesperson of the project.
The Internet, originally developed for only a few million users, has grown into a global multimedia platform. Today, this platform is intensively used by billions of users, the entertainment industry, trading companies, and also for politics and education. "The structures of the Internet were not built for such a rapid growth. It was overwhelmed by its own success and now it is transforming into a giant kraken that threatens basic values of democracy.
Thus, our privacy, data safety as well as our freedom of information and expression are in danger," warns Michael Backes, who also leads the Center for IT-Security, Privacy and Accountability (CISPA) in Saarbrücken. This competence center is sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Research and Technology.
It is rarely possible to protect one's own privacy on the Internet using state-of-the-art technologies. The user does not have a clear view of the consequences of his actions on the World Wide Web. Even for experts it is nearly impossible to move through the net anonymously and use it for the exchange of confidential information. "The NSA affair showed us all how easy it is to browse through enormous amounts of data for detailed information and to link personal data from completely divergent sources. It is not only easy for companies that want to find out about the personal interests and wishes of their customers. The intelligence services and criminal gangs are spying, too," explains Backes. As a result, he wants to devote himself mainly to the protection of privacy within the new research project.
His colleague Gerhard Weikum from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics researches reliable ways to test information from the Internet for validity. Currently, search engines are using their own, non-transparent mechanisms and it is frequently unclear how reliable a source really is. "The example of Bettina Wulff, former first lady of Germany, showed how false statements can show up only because millions of users search for such statements," Gerhard Weikum explains. Even companies can rarely ensure that all data they serve is trustworthy. Here begins the work of Rupak Majumdar from the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems. He wants to establish that services respect user preferences, provider policies and legal mandates on the Internet (compliance). The realization of these rules can be guaranteed by mathematical proofs.
"Today, criminal users and providers can rarely be held accountable for their actions on the Internet. At the same time, users must keep the right to freely seek information inform and express themselves on the Internet, without fearing reprisal, discrimination and other disadvantages," says Peter Druschel, scientific director at the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems. Thus, he wants to search for solutions for how responsibility for one's own actions in the Internet can be defined more clearly without becoming a transparent consumer and citizen. "Within our joint research project, we not only seek technical solutions, but work together with jurists, social scientists and economists to find new ways to secure basic democratic rights on the Internet“, says Druschel.
According to Michael Backes, each of the four research goals is a mammoth task, since some of their goals conflict with each other. But the ERC Synergy Grant aims at taking advantage of synergies between different research areas and using them to explore new territory. "For example, it is very complex to enable privacy and anonymity on the Web, and simultaneously hold users accountable for their actions in case of intentional misconduct. Furthermore it is difficult to ascertain the reliability of data that was published anonymously," explains Michael Backes. Many of these question remain unsolved and will be the subject of their research in this project.Press pictures are available here:
Breakthrough Prize for Kim Nasmyth
04.12.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH
The key to chemical transformations
29.11.2017 | Schweizerischer Nationalfonds SNF
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences