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uni'alumni 2015_ENG

Espionage, data protection, smart grids: The researchers at the Center for Security and Society explore ques- tions of civil security and develop new technologies. Katrin Albaum spoke with the director, Prof. Dr. Ralf Poscher, about work at the center and the tasks of security research. uni’alumni: Prof. Poscher, what is the research approach of the Center for Security and Society? Ralf Poscher: An approach geared exclusively toward technology runs the risk of developing technologies that encounter legal obstacles or a lack of acceptance in society. This happened, for example, in the case of the body scanner for airport security checkpoints, also known as the “naked scanner.” When perspectives from the humanities and the social sciences are taken into account in developing tech- nologies, such problems can be avoid- ed. Therefore, our research approach is interdisciplinary. What is the current trend in technical development? I could see information technology de- veloping along similar lines to the auto- mobile industry. Just a few decades ago, cars always had to have more horse- power and higher top speeds. Today buyers prefer cars with safety and as- sistance systems, and they are thus the main focus of development. Information technology is at the same point today that the automobile industry was once at. It’s all about exploring new possibili- ties: How can we collect more data and process it more efficiently? Integrating new options for data protection into the developments is a subordinate goal. What makes you think this will change? When data protection problems arise with a new technology, developers have to counteract them by developing fur- ther technologies. That costs money. In addition, there is a public debate on top- ics like the private sphere. Businesses will develop data protection technolo- gies when society demands them. It is the job of lawmakers to set the stand- ards for these technologies, which will then be developed in a cooperative ef- fort between the humanities, social sci- ences, and the engineering disciplines. What does “security” mean for you? There are many kinds of security, for in- stance social or internal security, each of which emphasizes different aspects. It’s easy for me as a law professor: We have definitions for everything. Security means keeping the legal system safe from violations. That is a clever defini- tion, because it passes this multifaceted question on to the complexity of the le- gal system. Our laws define what we un- derstand by security. Does Germany view security differently than other countries? I think we are more sensitive about it. Germany has experienced two dictator- ships that made excessive use of sur- veillance instruments to oppress and persecute people. In addition, under the National Socialist regime we were unable to free ourselves from this op- pression on our own. That explains why we have a different perspective on in- vasions of the private sphere and deal with them differently. Ralf Poscher is professor of political science and philosophy of law at the University of Freiburg. Photo: Patrick Seeger The law professor Ralf Poscher heads the University of Freiburg’s Center for Security and Society “New Technology, Other Perspectives” INTERVIEW 24