This Europe-wide project, led by the University of Edinburgh, is looking at improving user security and privacy on the Internet through the use of advanced cryptographic technology, so benefitting individual users and encouraging wide-ranging application development. It is a three-year project funded by the EU research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 and run by a consortium of nine partners. It is due to be completed in January 2019.

What problem is the project addressing?  
The issue is privacy and trust on the Internet. The Internet was not designed with anonymity in mind, and so who you are communicating with and what you are saying can be seen by network observers unless specific measures are taken. Understandably, many Internet users are increasingly worried about this, and are wanting improved privacy and anonymity for applications ranging from messaging to organisational voting or online feedback. This concern also has an impact on application development, as worries over information privacy can restrict user uptake and stop development into potentially beneficial areas.   

How can the Panoramix project help?  
The team is working to provide Internet user privacy through the development of a multipurpose freely accessible platform based on 'mix-networks' (mix-nets). Mix-nets protect not only the content of communications from third parties, but also obscure the exact identity of the senders or receivers of messages, through the use of cryptographic relays.   

Mix-nets are networks of servers that receive messages from multiple senders, shuffle them, and then send them to their final destination. This means it is not possible to find the correspondence between inputs and outputs, so allowing truly anonymous communications. While mix-net technology is not new, the Panoramix project will create a platform that makes mix-net development faster and scalable for future developments for commercial and civic use.

Who is it going to help? 
Such a mix-network is an absolutely critical technological infrastructure for guaranteeing strong privacy for European users and organisations. Its security reassurance should have a positive impact on people’s everyday Internet use concerns.

What are its potential applications?
Developing a freely accessible multipurpose platform for privacy-preserving online communications through the Panoramix project would empower people in Europe in terms of managing their privacy in a highly connected world and enable application innovation and benefit. It will also help the development of e-voting, where anonymity is necessary to guarantee an organisation’s ballot or survey secrecy. In addition, it will enable valuable anonymous big data collection, which can be used for useful real-life applications, such as real-time data-gathering to support monitoring of traffic movements in smart cities.

As project leader Professor Kiayias explains: "These applications show the range of both for-profit and non-profit uses of PANORAMIX and its potential ability to benefit individuals, society and organisations through privacy-protected communications and fast, scalable solutions."

Find out more about the Panoramix project.