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Digital Infrastructures in Democracy

Between Security and Freedom

This research focus examines the development of digital infrastructures and the resulting structural change in society. Special attention is given to tensions between security and freedom from the perspectives of law, sociology, computer science, and political science.

The spread and implementation of new digital infrastructures are bringing about a profound transformation of many social fields and decision-making contexts. In this context, disputes about the control of digital infrastructures have increased. In recent years, the growing political and economic power of technology companies has become a central regulatory task of digitalized societies, which is reflected in numerous, often controversial regulatory initiatives - for example, concerning media, antitrust or data protection law and, for example, the European initiatives Digital Services Act, Digital Markets Act, Data Governance Act, and the Artificial Intelligence Act.

How can objective and subjective definitions of safety and security be reconciled? How can the tension between the rights of freedom and the need for protection be shaped democratically and resiliently? How much centrality, self-regulation, and participation are possible and necessary? What Internet-based functions and platforms are required for the deployment of civil security forces? How is the population adequately informed and involved in disaster scenarios?

The research focus deals with the demand-oriented design of (counter-)measures, recommendations for action and development of digital infrastructures and solutions as well as with their potentials and consequences for security and governance. Therefore, approaches from computer science, political science, sociology, and law are combined.

Research Groups

Norm Setting and Decision Processes

The research group investigates which institutionalized decision processes exist in the application of rules of behavior with a general claim to validity in the digital space. It elaborates how these are to be normatively evaluated. Research topics here include autonomous systems and their institutional embedding as well as questions of the sustainability of digital processes.

Digitalization and Networked Security

The research group studies networked security as an essential component of (digital) public services in order to detect cascading emergencies at an early stage, to keep people informed in an optimal and trustworthy way and to indicate options for action. It focuses in particular on the analysis of uncertainties and the handling of non-knowledge in the use of digital technologies in the context of warnings.

Security and Transparency of Digital Processes

The research group investigates technologies that enable the secure and reliable support of digital processes, e.g. for process automation or automated process monitoring. The research group focuses on processes within businesses and public administration and investigates the tension between transparency and controllability as well as questions about the loss of privacy and creativity.

Technology, Power and Domination

The group explores how digital infrastructures change social domination and power. Our work focuses on the power implications, social conflicts and possibilities for democratic design entailed in digital platforms and artificial intelligence.