We take private cryptocurrencies for granted today, but it wasn’t always this way. BeInCrypto profiles four entrepreneurs who don’t take our privacy for granted.
Privacy has been an important issue since the early days of the Internet. Cryptocurrency and blockchain are no different. However, the invention of the world’s first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, is problematic. Public blockchains are inherently transparent and open. Bitcoin, like most cryptocurrencies, is pseudonymous, not anonymous. Most cryptocurrencies do not reveal their full identity. However, their transactions can still be tracked, traced, and traced back to them, so their anonymity isn’t completely hidden.
Nowadays, we have a lot of options when it comes to private trading. But getting here was not easy. Here, BeInCrypto has profiled four people who helped us get here. (Of course, the list is far from exhaustive.)
Chaum is often known as the “Godfather of Privacy” and “The Godfather of Cryptocurrency.” He first proposed the idea of secure digital cash in a paper in 1983. Schaum founded DigiCash in 1990 to market his ideas, but the company went bankrupt in 1998.
One of Chaum’s biggest contributions to privacy was his proposal for hybrid networks. In 1981, Chaum proposed it as a way to communicate anonymously over the Internet.
Mix Networks works on a very simple idea. You can take a bunch of messages and rearrange them (or “shuffle”) so that no one can tell which message came from which sender. This process is repeated many times, with each server adding another layer of encryption. Finally, the messages reach their final destination and are decoded in the correct order. Crypto mugs (or “bitcoin mixers”) work in a similar way.
Mixed networks are the core of the Tor privacy browser – which uses onion routing. Technology descended from mixed networks. They have been used to improve the privacy and anonymity of transactions, including cryptocurrencies such as Monero and Zcash.
Chaum is known worldwide for its contributions to privacy technology and secure election systems. Recently, he founded Elixirhelping to develop one of the world’s first secure and instant messaging blockchains.
Zuko Wilcox O’Hearn
Wilcox-O’Hearn is perhaps best known for his role as founder and CEO of Electric Coin, the creator of Zcash.
Wilcox-O’Hearn co-founded Zcash in 2013. Its cryptocurrency, Zcash, aims to add advanced privacy features on top of the Bitcoin codebase. Since its release, the coin has gained popularity due to its hands-on approach to privacy.
Zcash allows users to selectively reveal information about their transactions. This gives holders the option to comply with anti-money laundering or tax regulations while remaining anonymous at other times. As the website says: “Transactions are auditable, but disclosure is under the participant’s control.”
Wilcox-O’Hearn cut his teeth on DigiCash with David Chaum in the 1990s. However, Chaum’s project was centralized, and his company controlled the minting process. After this experience, Wilcox believed that there was a need for electronic cash that did not require a central authority. Wilcox credits Andrew Miller, a graduate student who he suspected might be the creator of bitcoin, with introducing him to the zk-snarks zero-knowledge proof system.
Wilcox-O’Hearn has also helped develop other privacy-focused projects. Including Least Authority, a security consulting firm, and the Tor Project, a nonprofit organization that develops software for anonymous online communications.
Before Zcash, there was Zerocoin – also known as the Zerocoin Protocol – and Matthew D. Green was one of its pioneers.
Zerocoin started life in 2013 as an academic project with graduate students at Johns Hopkins University. Green and his team wanted to provide users with anonymity by allowing them to convert their bitcoins into an anonymous and untraceable cryptocurrency. While initially developed for use with Bitcoin, Zerocoin can be integrated into any cryptocurrency.
The Zerocoin protocol has since been incorporated into a number of different cryptocurrency projects, including Zcoin and PIVX. It has also inspired the development of other privacy-focused cryptocurrencies such as Monero.
Green’s research team has identified vulnerabilities in cryptographic technologies, including SSL/TLS, RSA BSAFE, Exxon/Mobil Speedpass, E-ZPass, and automotive security systems, exposing flaws in more than a third of SSL/TLS encrypted websites. In 2015, his team identified a Logjam vulnerability in the TLS protocol.
Green is also a known advocate for government transparency. In 2013, he was one of the original signatories of the Open Letter to the National Security Agency calling for an end to mass surveillance. He has been a critic of proprietary software and has called for greater access to source code to improve security and transparency.
Harold “Hal” Finney was around at the beginning of Bitcoin. He was the first person to obtain bitcoin from its original creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. In 2004, Finney created the first reusable Proof-of-Work system, which laid the foundation for the mining process used in Bitcoin.
One of Finney’s contributions to the cryptocurrency field has been his work on improving privacy features. He was a strong advocate of the use of hybrid networks – first developed by David Chaum. Finney believed passionately that “the computer can be used as a tool to free and protect people, rather than to control them.”
Finney was one of the first people to explore the idea of using “blind signatures” to create anonymous digital money. He helped develop the first application of this concept in the form of the “reincarnation” system. He has also worked on other privacy-focused projects, including a system for anonymous messaging called PGPfone.
Along with Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn and many others, he was a member of the Severbank a movement. A group of radical technical liberals who use code and cryptography to achieve digital privacy. His tough stance on freedom has been an inspiration to many ever since. Sadly, Vinny passed away in August 2014 as a result of complications from ALS.
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