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06/25/2024 | Pressemitteilung

More privacy: Kassel researchers support approach for alternative search engines

Since March 2024, researchers at the University of Kassel have been working together with the Open Search Foundation on the research project "Privacy-enhancing digital infrastructures" (PriDI). The aim is to support the development of an open European web index. A web index is an organized directory of Internet content and forms the basis for search engines such as Google Search. The project aims to enable alternative search engines that better protect privacy. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Image: University of Kassel.
The PriDI team at the project kick-off on 8 May 2024. From left to right: Paul C. Johannes (research associate in the project), Prof. Dr Matthias Söllner (Head of the Department of Information Systems and Systems Development), Martina Adam (responsible for science communication in the project), Dr Christian Geminn (project manager and legal scholar at the University of Kassel) and Stefan Voigt (Chairman and founder of the Open Search Foundation).

Online search engines are largely financed through the analysis and marketing of user data, particularly for personalized advertising. This approach harbors the risk of targeted manipulation. "The more data we disclose, the more manipulable we become. Among other things, this is problematic in the context of elections, as personalized advertising can also influence voting behavior. We are supporting the development of an open web index through legal and application-oriented research and are anchoring central values such as data protection and privacy from the outset. In this way, the project also contributes to strengthening digital sovereignty in Germany and Europe," says Priv.-Doz. Dr. Christian Geminn, Project Leader and legal scholar at the University of Kassel.

An open European web index also increases diversity and freedom of choice in the area of Internet searches and thus promotes freedom of information, explains Dr. Stefan Voigt, CEO of the Open Search Foundation: "The search engine market is dominated by a few large providers. Google in particular has a considerable market share of around 90 percent. It is currently almost impossible for new search engines to penetrate this market and create their own web indices. The high costs and technical requirements are immense barriers to market entry."

A consortium of 14 European partners is currently developing an independent, open European web index. The PriDI project team, consisting of researchers from the University of Kassel and the Open Search Foundation, is supplementing this development of an open web index with legal and business informatics expertise in order to ensure that the new search infrastructure meets the high requirements for data protection and the protection of fundamental rights. In addition, the researchers are translating legal requirements into concrete measures, having these evaluated by potential users and creating handouts for companies and participating scientists.


The PriDI project is part of the Privacy Platform funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. In it, experts are investigating interdisciplinary issues relating to privacy and data protection in the digital world. The aim is to find holistic solutions for innovative data protection. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the entire joint project for three years with 1.29 million euros.



Priv.-Doz. Dr. Christian Geminn Mag. iur.
Phone: +49 561 804-6088
Email: c.geminn[at]uni-kassel[dot]de