New project “Privacy-enhancing digital infrastructures” (PriDi) launches

At the interface between law and business informatics, the PriDi project is researching how an open web index can be designed in conformity with fundamental rights and in such a way that it protects privacy, for example how values such as privacy and data protection can be anchored in such a web index in the sense of “value-by-design”.

Together with the University of Kassel, the Open Search Foundation has won the PriDi project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

PriDi (which translates to “privacy-enhancing digital infrastructures”) centers on the design of an open European web index that complies with fundamental rights and protects privacy. The project team will accompany the development of the European open search infrastructure over a period of 48 months and ensure that values such as privacy and data protection are anchored in the open web index in the sense of “value-by-design”.

Navigation in the digital world without search engines is almost unthinkable

Generally free to use, the lucrative business models are usually based on the intensive exploitation of user data for personalized advertising in extensive online advertising networks.

Search engines require a web index – a kind of table of contents of the World Wide Web. There are currently only four search providers worldwide with comprehensive indexes, as market entry barriers such as the enormous costs of setting up and operating a web index make it difficult for new search engines to build their own index and assert themselves on the market. They are dependent on the proprietary web indexes of the major platforms, which dictate their access and usage conditions and act as gatekeepers in the search engine market.

An open web index, on the other hand, could provide a large number of search engines with a basis for their services. Science, research and companies could also use it for innovations, for example in the field of artificial intelligence.

Such an open web index would promote diversity and freedom of choice in the area of internet search as well as freedom of information and would be an important step towards digital sovereignty. In addition, opening up the search engine market would strengthen the informational self-determination of citizens.

Value-by-design for internet search

The PriDi project team will support the development of an open web index with legal and business IT expertise. The aim is to align the resulting search infrastructure with the best possible implementation of fundamental rights and applicable data protection law. With a focus on a particularly privacy-friendly design, the project team will examine legal requirements, translate them into specific catalogues of requirements and have them evaluated by stakeholder groups.

Project start is March 2024.

The project the website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (in German):

Neues Projet PriDi