Andreas Pfitzmann, head of the Privacy and Data Security Research group at Technische Universität Dresden, has died. For more than 25 years he worked on privacy and multilateral security issues. As Caspar Bowden puts it, “Andreas was the eminence grise of serious PET research in Europe, an extraordinarily decent person, and massively influential in the public policy of privacy technology in Germany and Europe.”
Those not familiar with his work should definitely read and use A terminology for talking about privacy by data minimization – a great contribution that gives us clearly defined concepts through which scientific understanding of privacy and multilateral security can move forward.
The obituary posted by Germany's Chaos Computer Club reveals his impact on a community that extended far beyond the walls of the university:
The sudden and unexpected death of Professor Andreas Pfitzmann on 23rd September 2010 leaves a huge gap in the lives of all who knew him. Through both his work and approach, Prof. Pfitzmann set measurably high standards. He was one of a small group of computer scientists who always clearly put forward his soundly based and independent opinion. In his endeavours to foster cross-discipline interaction, he proved instrumental in shaping both technical and political discourses on anonymity and privacy issues in Germany – thus ensuring him a well-deserved international reputation. He always managed to cross the boundaries of his discipline and make the impact of technology comprehensible. His contributions to research in this regard remain eloquent and courageous, and his insistence on even voicing inconvenient truths means he will remain a role model for us all.
In his passing we recognise and mourn the loss of an outstanding scientist, unique in his stance as a defender of people’s basic rights of anonymity and the administration of information pertaining to themselves – both of which are basic prerequisites for a thriving democracy. None of us will ever forget his rousing lectures and speeches, or the ways he found to nurture experimental, enquiring thought amongst an audience.
In Andreas Pfitzmann, too many of our members have lost a dear friend and long-term inspirer. Our thoughts are firmly with his family, to whom we extend our deepest and most profound condolences.
I too will miss both Andreas Pfitzmann and the great clarity he brought to any conversation he participated in.