Research overview

The Collaborative Research Centre 1223 “Methods and Tools for Understanding and Controlling Privacy” was funded by the German Research Foundation.

Funding period:

January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2019
Speaker: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Backes


The Internet has undergone dramatic changes in the past 15 years, and now forms a global multimedia platform that billions of users rely on for their daily information, communication, business, education, and entertainment. Beside its tremendous positive effects, this transformation also comes with well-known negative effects: online privacy of end-users is a largely unsolved problem. The wide circulation, easy accessibility and permanent nature of online data incurs risks ranging from public embarrassment to disadvantages when applying for jobs or insurance. New business models have emerged, tracking and monetizing personal information in an unprecedented manner. Legislators have started to respond by tightening privacy regulations, but we arguably lack the technology to fully comply with such regulations, and users lack support for making informed privacy choices.
Establishing an overarching scientific foundation for providing privacy in tomorrow’s Internet is a long-term endeavor, requiring a fundamental research effort broadly covering two central research areas: Understanding Privacy, i.e. how to identify privacy-sensitive information in the Internet, and assess the privacy consequences of information disclosure; and Controlling Privacy, i.e. how to enforce user privacy demands given the dynamics of present-day digital habitats and emerging technologies.

The Collaborative Research Centre 1223 makes conceptual and tangible contributions addressing these questions, including, for example, image analysis methods assessing the potential privacy threat of publishing visual data, techniques protecting privacy in the presence of sophisticated mobile sensing and recording devices like smartphones and Google Glasses, and solutions preserving a user’s anonymity in online interactions without inhibiting their functionality.
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.