Berlin search app wants to reconcile personalization and data protection

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Can personalized search results and data protection be reconciled? The makers of the Berlin search app say yes and simply relocated the training of the AI ​​models to our smartphones.

The AI-assisted personalization should help us to find the content that really interests us faster. But we pay for this luxury with our data, which ends up at internet companies like Google for analysis. However, the search app Xayn is now supposed to show that personalization and data protection do not necessarily have to stand in the way.

Xayn uses federated machine learning for this. This means that an AI evaluates the behavior of users on the smartphone. The AI ​​models generated in this way are then encrypted and transmitted to a server, where they are in turn incorporated into a global AI model. This is then transmitted back to the end devices in order to improve the models there. The actual user data, however, does not leave the device.

The underlying technology was developed by the two founders Leif-Nissen Lundbæk and Michael Huth as part of a research project at Oxford University and Imperial College London. Later they have the technology under the name Xaynet published as an open source project. This framework now also forms the basis of the Xayn app.

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Xayn: This is how the search app works in practice

When starting Xayn, the so-called homescreen is displayed. Here you can find a feed of the latest news. First of all, general news will be displayed here, but over time Xayn should learn to concentrate on topics that are of interest to you. To do this, you also have to tell the app what interests you and what is not.

It’s really easy: If you are not interested in a topic, you can display it with a swiping gesture to the right. A swiping gesture to the left shows the app that you consider the respective message to be interesting. You can also save articles in this way for later reading or share the article link.

Gallery: The search app Xayn in action
The home screen of the Xayn app. (Screenshot: Xayn / t3n)

You can access the actual search function via a magnifying glass symbol at the bottom of the Xayn app. Here, too, you can use swiping gestures to mark the results as interesting or uninteresting, which will later influence your search results. In addition to a web search, you can also search for images, videos and messages via Xayn.

A brain symbol at the top of the Xayn app gives you the option to switch off the personalization function of the app at any time. In this way you have quick access to the general search results at any time.

Xayn: Apps are now available – desktop version is to follow

The Xayn app is now available for download for Android and iOS. While the menu language in our test version was only available in English, the finished app should also be usable in German. To be able to use the app, you need at least an iPhone 8 or a smartphone with Android version 9 or higher. A desktop version of the search app should already be in progress and will be submitted at a later date.



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