lecture: The Zcash anonymous cryptocurrency

or zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive arguments of knowledge for laypeople


Zcash is the third iteration of an extension to the Bitcoin protocol that provides true untraceability, i.e. fully anonymous transactions. It is arguably the first serious attempt to establish this extension, in the form of its own blockchain, beyond the form of an academic proposal. The talk provides an introduction to the magic that makes it work.

Despite everything, the Bitcoin cryptocurrency has not imploded or destroyed itself; it might be here to stay after all. That would presently include, however, its biggest flaw: The utter lack of anonymity. In fact, the famed Bitcoin blockchain is the world's most robust, transparent, and public financial accounting system ever.

The above means that Bitcoin's potential widespread adoption is nothing short of a privacy horror scenario straight out of Orwell. Every toilet paper purchase publicly recorded, verified, stamped, and approved. This should not be news to anyone.

In 2013, a few reputable cryptographers came up with some mathematical magic that would, if integrated into Bitcoin, enable anonymous transactions. This proposal has been described in an academic paper under the name Zerocoin and a year later improved in another paper under the name Zerocash. The plan had then shifted to establishing the system as an anonymous altcoin rather than to push for integration into Bitcoin itself. Zcash is the name of a company formed by the authors of Zerocash to develop and launch this altcoin; launch occured as planned on 28 October 2016.

This talk will introduce the audience to the mathematical and technical background of Zcash, and report on the state of the currency two months after its launch. A degree in mathematics is not required.

Note: The presenter is not affiliated with the Zcash company.

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