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:
The quest for the oldest ice on Earth
14.11.2016 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
Empa Innovation Award for new flame retardant
09.11.2016 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy