Anonymous Internet Communication and Blockchain Technologies

 

“The professorship at the Einstein Center Digital Future (ECDF) represents the best of both worlds,” enthuses Prof. Dr. Florian Tschorsch. “On the one hand I enjoy the classic research environment of a university. On the other hand I can take advantage of the many points of overlap with interesting, interdisciplinary research approaches that otherwise often require a long time to develop.”

Thirty-two-year-old Tschorsch, who comes from the Düsseldorf area, studied informatics at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, although he also minored in media and communications. Towards the end of his doctoral work, for which he had already received numerous academic prizes, he transferred to Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He has been an ECDF junior professor of distributed security infrastructures at TU Berlin since 2017.

“My research area focuses on, among other things, anonymous Internet communication and blockchain technologies. I am particularly interested in the conflicting demands of security, privacy, and performance in distributed architectures,” says Tschorsch.

Most of his research topics have emerged from the various challenges facing today’s Internet systems. “On the one hand we want systems that are safe and anonymous; on the other hand they should be quick, universally available, and as scalable as possible. These goals often conflict with one another, and it is from this conflict that my three current research topics have emerged: the first has roots in my doctoral work and involves the Tor system, a network that makes anonymous Internet communication possible via a variation of the Firefox open source browser. There are contradictory statements about how anonymous this system really is but hardly any valid research. This is exactly what one of my doctoral students is working on now. A second project involves research on the use of distributed statistics and is a branch, so to speak, that grew out of the research on the Tor system. You can, for instance, use distributed statistics with an applicable technology, which I would like to further develop, to evaluate large quantities of company or hospital data. The key is that these datasets will never be de-anonymized. So data protection is always guaranteed thanks to the special technology.”

His third topic focuses on what is known as blockchain technology upon which, for example, payment systems such as Bitcoin or Ethereum are based. Tschorsch’s research in this area focuses on improving current blockchain technology, initially in the area of scalability, without sacrificing safety.

Digital infrastructures work has close links to several other areas such as law or the social sciences. “It is precisely this interdisciplinarity and social relevance—how I communicate findings to the public—that inspires me. That’s why I engage in exchanges with other organizations such as the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG). As an example, we have used joint workshops to try to make the technology behind the Internet more understandable for lawyers or humanities scholars.”