Data privacy and security issues have been brought to the forefront yet again with the recent Facebook scandal revealing that user data was compromised for commercial and political agendas, as well as recent hacking of high-profile sites. These have raised concerns for governments, businesses and users at a period coinciding with the enforcement of the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May.
In the blockchain world, developers have been working to improve and refine a technology based on the concept of zero-knowledge (zk) proofs, which works on the basis that it is not necessary to reveal anything about the actual nature of information for its authenticity to be verified. One example is to use zk proofs to protect details in cryptocurrency transactions.
However, experts have identified the flaws in the security of simpler zk cryptography, which can be slow and cumbersome to use as ‘zk-SNARKs’ (zero-knowledge, Succinct, Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge) as the next iteration of security. These provide a threshold of information that can be released to meet the requirements of a query. If a query wants to confirm a person had more than a certain amount of money in the bank account, the verification can confirm this without revealing the exact amount. This enables companies to use blockchain technology to supply information quickly in response to queries without revealing the data.
Financial transactions are considered private or commercial in confidence, and companies don’t prefer to reveal this information to anyone, for example, when this information might be necessary for maintaining their market position. zk-SNARKs enable companies to list proof of a transaction on a node while keeping their commercially-sensitive data separate.
Another enhancement of zk proofs is the development of a new model that will increase anonymity in cryptocurrency transactions. StarkWare utilized zk-STARK (Zero-Knowledge Scalable Transparent Arguments-of-Knowledge) mechanism to create a more secure environment for those undertaking cryptocurrency transactions. This way, there is no need to reveal the data to all other contacts with access to a local node. There are claims that they will be more effective than zk-SNARKS as they will be cheaper, faster and secure.
StarkWare has decided to introduce a new business model called ‘Tech For Tokens’. It will act as a service supply company to blockchain organizations and receive payment for their services in cryptocurrency tokens. This will be a challenge for many who have become accustomed to each new technology development having its coin offering.
However, there is a great and growing interest in data protection. This new technology can be an opportunity to change thinking in several ways.
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