by Jamie Holmes
To augment their privacy offering, PIVX announced on May 25 that the community will work toward the implementation of Zero-Knowledge Proofs, allowing users to mint and spend coins with no transaction history.
At present, PIVX users’ privacy is enforced via wallet coin mixing, using an advanced version of CoinJoin, facilitated by a decentralized network of masternodes. However, this is not perfectly anonymous, but still an improvement over Bitcoin, explaining the reason for the move toward the Zero-Knowledge Proofs, an interesting technology utilized by Zcash.
Zero-Knowledge Proofs is a cryptographic method whereby one agent in the ecosystem can prove to another agent that a given statement is true, without conveying any other information apart from that the statement is true. PIVX will be the first Proof of Stake cryptocurrency to implement Zero-Knowledge Proofs, which will let users conduct transactions that only reveal whether or not the payment was received or sent publicly, with no address or prior transactions visible on the blockchain.
Zerocoin was one of the first protocols to provide privacy within the Bitcoin network, started by a collaboration between cryptographers from the MIT, The Technion and Tel Aviv University and PIVX will incorporate this protocol into their blockchain network.
Two types of transaction occur with Zero-Knowledge Proofs; mint transactions and pour transactions, with the latter allowing users to achieve privacy. They can produce new coins by consuming the coins owned.
According to the ZeroCash project website:
“Roughly, a pour transaction, for two input coins and two output coins, involves proving, in zero knowledge, that:
- the user owns the two input coins;
- each one of the input coins appears in some previous mint transaction or as the output coin of some previous pour transaction; and
- the total value of the input coins equals the total value of the output coins.
The pour transaction consumes the input coins by revealing their serial numbers, but does not reveal any other information such as the values of the input or output coins, or the addresses of their owner.”
The first announcement of the Zerocoin protocol adoption by PIVX was made May 24, which stated:
“In a nutshell…PIVX will lead a truly Privately Secure minded network where users can be free of prying eyes and give full freedom of finances back into the hands of the individual.”
While the phrase “you’ve got nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide” is commonly thrown around whenever privacy is mentioned, there are many reasons why financial privacy is necessary. For instance, political factors may prevent personal choice with regards to philanthropy or even investment. The personal choice of investing in an emerging economy such as Iran is also considered out of bounds via the traditional financial system, with one Swedish investment firm using bitcoin to sidestep sanctions. While this method works for now, anonymity is a necessary precaution in case of a crackdown using blockchain analysis for politically ‘unfavourable’ personal choices. In other words, some transactions are best left private.
While there is concern about criminality, obfuscating transactions does not help people launder money as it does not provide these people with a legitimate revenue stream; it only allows such people to hide their wealth, which they can already do with cash and using bitcoin mixers.
By building on their privacy offering, PIVX’s move to become the first Proof of Stake cryptocurrency to implement Zero-Knowledge Proofs comes at a time when there are many exciting developments for this grassroots movement, including Community Designed Governance.