Consensus 2017: Enterprise Ethereum Alliance Puts Blockchain Privacy Into Focus

Privacy and confidentiality are big-ticket priorities for the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, ethereum-focused consortium launched in February.

AccessTimeIconMay 22, 2017 at 9:50 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 1:22 p.m. UTC

Privacy and confidentiality are big-ticket priorities for the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, ethereum-focused consortium launched in February.

The group – which last night announced the addition of 86 more members, including South Korean telecom Samsung and car manufacturer Toyota – took to the stage today at CoinDesk's Consensus 2017 conference in New York, detailing the work its various members and working groups are pursuing.

In the words of one panelist: "Everyone has a very long wish list."

But it was transaction privacy – currently an unsolved problem with a number of potential solutions – that was a recurring topic over the course of the afternoon.

IC3 co-director Ari Juels perhaps summed up the sentiment best by saying:

“Without confidentiality, we're not reaping the full benefit of the blockchain.”

Maksym Petkus, an engineer for blockchain startup Chronicled, spoke to what he believes should be the next steps on this path.

"I would like to see privacy moving from off-chain to on-chain maybe using zk-SNARKS. I think this is the way to go,” he said.

He added that optimizing zk-SNARKs to take up less space, as they are a bit roomy in a capacity-constrained blockchain, should be a priority.

Privacy love

The focus on privacy reigned throughout the panels, particularly when participants touched on the various ideas and concepts they're pursuing.

Sandeep Kumar, managing director for Synechron, noted that banks and insurance companies require privacy while keeping some information public in order to comply with KYC laws, for example. This area, Kumar said, is one for which he's seeking solutions.

Many panelists noted that privacy-oriented ideas sprung from private implementations of ethereum's EVM could help with the broader ethereum network, and vice visa, so that the two types of blockchains ultimately feed into each other.

One critical example of this privacy trend is the just-announced partnership between JPMorgan and the company behind Zcash to build zk-SNARKS into Quorum – JPMorgan's private blockchain contribution to the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance – to make smart contract execution more private. Like Zcash, Quorum will support both private and public transactions.

That said, you might be thinking, automakers and cellphone manufacturers are a part of it now too? Is the alliance too sprawling in scope to solve specific problems such as privacy?

Yet during the event, one audience member brought up a potential problem: is the alliance too sprawling in scope to tackle specific problems like privacy? The attendee went on to ask what would keep the ethereum alliance together.

Bob Summerwill, lead architect of Enterprise Ethereum for ConsenSys, put his answer bluntly:

"Because ethereum's a better technology."

Image by Alyssa Hertig for CoinDesk


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