Privacy and Trust for Mobile Users

Hand hält Schmartphone. Um das Smartphone befinden sich unterschiedliche Icons

Image: RTG 2050

People around the world are digitally connected via Smartphones and ever more technical devices are hooked up to the Internet of Things. This ubiquitous digitization raises privacy protection and trust assessment to two of the most pressing challenges of digitization. This being said, privacy and trust have always been of fundamental importance for social and economic life. Therefore, interdisciplinary research must link the wealth of scientific findings from psychology, social sciences, economics and law with computer science knowledge, even more so since the digital and real worlds are increasingly merging. How can users protect themselves against uncontrolled disclosure of private information on the Internet? On the other hand, how can they benefit from deliberate and controlled data disclosure? How to assess the trustworthiness of the processes, data and actors on the Internet – particularly on behalf of the users? How are digital collectives formed – and how do they act – in social networks?

Young scientists from all the above-mentioned disciplines work together the Research Training Group (RTG) 2050 „Privacy and Trust for Mobile Users“ to address all these questions. They investigate concepts for realizing and enforcing privacy protection in accordance with the will of the individual user. This relates also to the research question of how digital actors and actions can become more transparent and predictable for laypersons. Spokesperson of the RTG is Prof. Max Mühlhäuser (Informatics Dept., Telekooperation Lab), who cooperates with 12 colleagues of Technische Universität Darmstadt as well as Goethe-Universität Frankfurt and Universität Kassel.

While the RTG, in its first phase, researched privacy protection and trust assessment quite broadly and developed new solutions, the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) came into force. The implementation of this law has revealed that individual users cannot really exercise their personal rights if they are left entirely on their own in the task of making the "well-informed decisions" required by law. For this reason, research in the second phase of the RTG (beginning of April 2020) will investigate, among other things, concepts for so-called intermediaries. This term alludes to trustworthy bodies that act as quasi incorruptible and perfectly trained notaries between users and Internet actors. The RTG research shall help to reveal if 'digital collectives' – comparable to the open source movement for software development – can master this task, or if supranational institutions are better suited, or possibly even software agents based on artificial intelligence.