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Parity’s Jutta Steiner: Web 3.0 Will Evolve as Interoperability and Usability Improve

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Cointelegraph spoke recently with Dr. Jutta Steiner, the co-founder and CEO of Parity Technologies, about what originally drew her into the Ethereum (ETH) crowd and how she plans to bring more interoperability to blockchain.

During the recent TechCrunch Ethereum Meetup in Zug, Switzerland, Steiner detailed how her background in math and science ties into her work with blockchain, as well as how the new Polkadot protocol could help usher in the web 3.0 era.

Molly Jane: Could you begin by telling me a bit about yourself?

Jutta Steiner: My name is Jutta Steiner, I’m the CEO of Parity. I started this company three years ago together with Gavin Wood, who was one of the original co-founders of Ethereum. I myself used to work for the Ethereum Foundation, looking after security before the launch of the Ethereum platform.

Before that I had a background in applied maths, so I spent quite some time at uni, moved a bit in consulting after my PhD, and then got more and more interested, basically at around the time of the Snowden revelations — interested in what’s actually happening online, what’s happening to our data? How does this all work?

And I ended up reading a lot, accidentally came across Maidsafe, which was an early project in that space as well, and then saw people discussing Ethereum in that context about four years ago, how to use it for access management of data. And then I met the Ethereum people, this is how I got involved basically.

MJ: So it all started with Ethereum for you?

JS: I mean, yeah, I had read about Bitcoin and it was interesting to me from a math perspective. But I only realized the potential when I came across these discussions of what can you actually do with Ethereum. I really liked this level of abstraction.

MJ: Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Ethereum?

JS: Back at the time, I got interested in what can you actually do with it. This whole data perspective was interesting, but then also around the same time I met Jessi Baker, who was just starting a company called Provenance, where she looked at trying to create a Facebook for products, like bringing transparency to supply chains. That was sort of the idea — like, what’s the history, what are the people, processes behind products, etc.

I ended up working for the Ethereum Foundation on security. But then, when working on problems, I was realizing that really the technology isn’t there yet where it needs to be in order to become mainstream, and so out of that frustration Parity came out do as a company.

But we wanted to further work on the fundamental technologies and push that forward, which kind of nicely ties back to my math and science background. So being able to push technology on that end is pretty good fun.

You can watch the interview here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCLTb-zrkc4&feature=youtu.be

MJ: So what exactly is Parity? How is it connected to the new Polkadot protocol?

JS: We started Parity by basically taking all the learnings from the early days of Ethereum and coming up with a new implementation.

Initially, the ideas evolved a lot around just pure interoperability. A few years ago, the discussions about private chains and public chains started so it seemed sensible, and it also seemed sensible as a way of optimizing scalability.

But then over time, things like governance became also more of an issue, and we really started thinking about what is the next level of abstraction that we need to bring to this technology in order to make it much more genuine, much more easy to adapt to solve all these issues.

What we’re doing at Parity is coming up with a fundamentally new way of building online services. The way how the web has evolved and applications on the web — everything we do, every service we use, we always have to rely on centralized servers, where all our data is hosted, where there’s like an authority that decides on how does the service work, what happens if there’s contention.

And what we’re trying to build is basically a system where there’s much more agency on the user side, where there’s less of the divide between service provider and the people that use the services. So that it really becomes a much more open, a much more peer-to-peer way of interacting with each other where we don’t have to go through Facebook, through Google buttons that have seamless interacting with our friends or whoever we want to interact with.

That’s what we call web 3.0, the next level of the web.

And that’s where Polkadot, or the technologies around Polkadot, sits right now. Substrate is a technology that we just released in a PoC [Proof of Concept] state in a test net, it’s a very general framework for spinning up your own state machine.

MJ: How long do you think it would take before we actually would enter the web 3.0 era?

JS: So are aiming to release Polkadot at the end of next year. Now that doesn’t mean we’ll already see applications, I think that’s going to be a gradual process. I mean, there are things you can use already to make your applications more decentralized, more peer-to-peer, there are some solutions for having interoperability, like cross-chain transactions.

I hope that over the next few years we’re going to see the first implementations, applications that fundamentally use this. A lot of what we have to solve evolves around usability and user experience, and this will probably still take a bit. Also, there is sometimes an advantage from having systems a little bit centralized, because you can have a massive efficiency gain in certain cases, and we still haven’t found out where we have to make these trade-offs.

MJ: What would you say to someone that says: “I don’t know what you’re talking about with this web 3.0, I like using Facebook, it’s familiar, I don’t care if they take my data”?

JS: It’s hard if people don’t see what the underlying mechanisms are that make systems like Facebook really not the perfect systems to interact with. But I guess the recent revelations around Cambridge Analytica in particular have shown the government how powerful these platforms have become, which the hearings have shown.

There is a spotlight now on all the services to come up with answers, because governments fear the interference that comes through these services. I believe we’re gonna see regulation that will play in favor of decentralization to a certain extent. We’ve seen Europe already with GDPR, so there’s a directive on data protection. Although there are some questions around, like how this would work exactly with blockchain. I believe on the political side a there is a lot of will of making sure we don’t give power to governments that are completely unregulated.

MJ: I know some blockchain companies have experienced problems with the GDPR because of the “right to be forgotten” clause, since the whole point of a blockchain is that nothing is ever forgotten. How do you see that contradiction playing out?

JS: I hope that we see clarification from regulators and from lawmakers over the next couple of years. In principle, I see that the people that believe in blockchain technology and the people that were behind the GDPR have a huge set of common goals, basically giving power back to to the users. And it’s unfortunate that the drafting of the GDPR came just before blockchain became a thing, and so became way too specific in the way it was drafted.

I mean, politics can be slower, but I would hope that people will recognize the potential of the technology, and therefore, I don’t know, create sandboxes, or actually find a way of just leading to more clarification.

MJ: Could you name an example of a country with a regulatory framework where they’re doing everything right? Does that exist yet?

JS:  Where they’re doing everything right?

MJ: Ok, most things right!

JS: Switzerland was interesting because small countries have it easy, right? Or easier because they’ve always struggled with retaining, maintaining relevance and so they had to be more agile and adapt to changes in the environment much more quickly.

I think we’re gonna see a lot of regulatory innovation or regulatory competition between countries, which helps entrepreneurs to a certain extent, but then only so much as this is all global. This is technology that we’re building for the entire web. I’m not sure whether I’ve seen anybody who does everything right, but it’s quite good that people are mobile these days and they just move around wherever they can build their business, it has to add to regulatory competition.

MJ: I saw you retweeted the other day a meme about women in crypto, where the media is shouting “Where are the women in crypto?” and there’s a woman shouting back, “I’m right here!” How many times do you get asked about what’s it like being a woman in crypto?

JS: I get asked frequently my perspective on this and what needs to be done, and then, I guess, my frustration with that topic comes a lot from…often those discussions are very nuanced, but then in the end all that gets printed is like just a complaint, like there aren’t that many, or like the main topic of the article is that there are only Lambos, and I don’t think it’s helpful.

I believe it’s more helpful to just talk about the work that people do.

I don’t find it inspiring if I see people just driving their Lambos either, it wouldn’t have been the reason why I would have come and work in crypto, but instead seeing people that just work in the space and becoming interested in the topics.

That’s what I believe should be talked about.

MJ: Parity experienced a problem with the freezure of wallets containing Ethereum back in November 2017. In April, the frozen wallets became a news topic again due to an Ethereum proposal to reverse the hack that did not end up getting passed.  

Is “unfreezing” the wallets something that Parity are still thinking about?

JS: There are a lot of efforts within Ethereum to come up with answers, like how to fix the issue of governance in general. And the reason why governance is an important thing is because if you have an answer to this, it’s easier to come up with ways where you decide on contentious issues, like whether you want to have a fork or to unfreeze the funds.

And I believe this is a fundamentally needed debate, because we haven’t figured this out yet, how do we actually want to govern decentralized systems, and that’s what we are trying to work out with the community.

I do believe if you want to encourage innovation in space, you need to make sure you don’t discourage experimentation. Like the optimization that led to the freeze was a very sensible optimization back at the time.

And the truth is the tools that we need in order to write smart contracts, safe smart contracts, aren’t there yet. And the wallet freeze wasn’t the only issue that happened where people lost access to their funds. There were other issues, and I still hope that we find a solution where bugs in infrastructure that led to people losing access will be fixed in an adequate way.

MJ: Are you personally involved in the cryptocurrency market? Do you trade, do you hold, do you care?

JS: I wish I was, I don’t have time for that!  Between looking after the company and looking after the family there’s very little time to be personally involved.

MJ: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us!

JS: Thanks.

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ConSensys’ Ajit Tripathi: ‘Rebellious Teenager’ Crypto Is Maturing

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Cointelegraph had the opportunity to speak to ConsenSys’ Ajit Tripathi at BlockShow Europe 2018 about his experience leaving Wall Street for the crypto world, what new ConsenSys projects he’s most excited about, and why crypto regulation changes from country to country.

Molly Jane: Could you tell us a little bit more about what Consensys does and what your role is there?

Ajit Tripathi: ConsenSys is a venture production studio based in Brooklyn, and now we have offices in London, in about 30 countries, including London, Paris, South Africa, Australia, and Singapore — we’re building teams all over the world to essentially develop blockchain-based solutions. We create a lot of startups, we’re technology builders, and we are creating tools, components, infrastructure and solutions for a decentralized ecosystem.

If I had to put this in one line, we create technology for insider marketplaces.

What that means is, today, the whole world is dominated by centralized platforms, like banks or the likes of Facebook — they all dominate either data or assets and become rent-seeking participants in the economy.

We want to shift that to a peer-to-peer paradigm, where the individual is empowered. We think technology, especially blockchain technology, has a big role to play in creating an ecosystem where we do not depend on these dominant intermediaries in every single market for information and assets.

My focus is on decentralized exchanges, regulation and policy. Decentralized exchanges are peer-to-peer marketplaces for exchanging digital and digitized assets. And what that means is that, historically, we’ve had centralized exchanges, for the most part, right? Like the NASDAQ, or NYSE, and so on and so forth, that are very efficient in terms of providing liquidity but then are not so great for low-liquidity assets.

I come from the enterprise space. I worked for Goldman Sachs, Barclays, UBS, PwC — some of the most established institutions and the kind of intermediaries I talked about — and I sort of bring the whole power, and this innovation in the crypto ecosystem, to institutions and legacy. My role is to help some of these institutions understand what’s going on in crypto and how they can leverage this technology to participate in this decentralization revolution, so to speak.

MJ: These past few months have seen what some would call an “exodus” of Wall Street players leaving the traditional financial sphere for the crypto sector. As someone that has gone down the path, can you speak to the reasons that brought you to ConsenSys?

AT: I can’t speak for everybody’s motivations, right? On the one hand, some people are excited about the growth of the crypto ecosystem, and that’s perfectly honorable and great. And some people are excited by the sheer amount of wealth that’s flowing into this ecosystem, and that’s perfectly honorable as well.

I’m an engineer, I came from technology and did some work in consulting and regulation. In the process, I met Joe [Lubin]. Joe is the CEO of ConsenSys, and Joe has something about him, he is an inspirational figure, he has this ability to excite people about this future.

Like this decentralized internet, and then this decentralized insider-marketplace idea that we are building, in so many, different sectors of the global economy. This whole thing about being able to build something, something that’s futuristic. A lot of large institutions want to innovate, or companies want to innovate, but they have the innovator’s dilemma, they’re tied to what exists today, and they are scared of disrupting their own businesses.

With ConsenSys ,there is no such thing, right? ConsenSys exist to create new things, ConsenSys does a lot of experimentation, ConsenSys is purely focused on innovation, and that’s what made me really excited about ConsenSys at this time, because if you have an idea and if you have a team — and you can actually make things happen — then ConsenSys is a great place for people to go. And we are hiring right now.

MJ: What projects is ConsenSys currently working on that you’re the most excited about? Are any close to mass adoption?

AT: It’d be very, very difficult for me not to be excited about some of our projects. Blockchain is an early-stage technology, right? But, at the same time, in the enterprise space, we have seen a lot of progress. Truffle is the most popular development tool in all of the Ethereum (ETH) development community, then Metamask has had 1 million downloads — it’s a wallet. Infura can support up to 12 billion transactions a day, which is for read-only transactions, and takes a lot off the load of the public Ethereum blockchain.

For a wide range of digital assets that need this peer-to-peer discovery for exchanging, we are working on this next-generation decentralized exchange platforms. Trustology is our platform for an institutional great crypto custody that will go live at the end of this year. I mean, we have 40+ projects: we have a “blockchain for social impact” project, we have a venture capital arm now, we are creating a lot of ventures in partnership with enterprise customers.

In some sense, our role is to unleash this entrepreneurial spirit — or energy — of the whole blockchain community, whether it’s the enterprise community or the crypto community, and these are all starting to converge.

MJ: I’ve noticed on your Twitter that you had been very vocal against the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy bill. Can you explain your position?

AT: Yeah, I have strong views on that. So GDPR is well-intentioned, right? I mean, it was partly that our current privacy regime is outdated — that previous regime needs an update.

Because, now, we have Facebook, and we have Google, and you have lots of these data intermediaries — it’s central monopolies that are taking everybody’s data and selling ads back to them. And as we found out from Edward Snowden, they might be giving their data off to the government for surveillance.

But if you look at how the regulation has been written, then it has some significant flaws. Regulation needs a little bit of adaptation to the technology that’s emerging, because privacy isn’t the only need, right? Europe needs to remain competitive against other jurisdictions, we need to create great technology, we need to make sure that our economies are competitive against China, and India, and the U.S., and so on, and so forth. We need a technology ecosystem in this continent that’s competitive. And GDPR runs the risk of being too restrictive.

For example, we have a right to be forgotten, now what does that mean in practice? I did a lot of consulting for banks, and at PwC, and now if you try to actually delete a customer’s data from the bank because of the GDPR, there are 10 other regulatory requirements that prevent you from doing that. So, in theory, it sounds fantastic but — in practice — implementing GDPR is really hard now, and it can actually make people very concerned.

Parity, which has a KYC utility PICOPS — which is very popular with the Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) — had to stop its service because now they are really concerned about GDPR. [From] now on, you definitely want to have KYC and AML regulations, ICOs comply with all of that. And now suddenly we have to stop a very useful service called PICOPS because of the GDPR. These guys don’t want to be in legal trouble because they are offering a great service, right?

We are working on a project with the European Commission. It’s called the EU Blockchain Observatory, and we invite all the blockchain ecosystem participants to engage in that process. At some point, policymakers and regulators will adapt GDPR to this new and exciting technology that’s coming up. But until then, there is a lot of confusion and and uncertainty in the marketplace.

MJ: Could you speak more about the general regulatory uncertainty in the crypto space, worldwide?

AT: Regulatory approaches around the world are rooted in their culture, right? For example, when we talked to kids at the dinner table in the U.S. when they’re not behaving, we tell them to go to their rooms. In China, in India, we might actually hit them.

So crypto is like this kid growing up, and regulators are like these parents who behave in ways that are attuned to their culture.

Now some of these are knee-jerk responses from regulators around the world because, for example, in China there was a Communist Party Congress just before Bitcoin (BTC) was banned. The government didn’t want social instability, and there was a very bullish market that could have caused a lot of problems for individual investors. A lot of these things that regulators are doing are well-intentioned, but part of the challenge is that the crypto community hasn’t really engaged with policymakers.

We haven’t tried or invested in educating, so — initially — Bitcoin came out of a bit of a revolution. We were rebelling, the crypto community was rebelling against the “Chancellor Bailout,” and Occupy Wall Street was the theme.

But now that kid — the rebellious teenager — has grown up a little bit. It’s time for us as technologists to engage with the other processes of the society like regulation and policy, and work collaboratively, help regulators understand what’s going on, help governments understand what’s going on, educate ourselves on why the rules are the way they are, why the securities laws are set up the way they are. And then, maybe, find this ground where the technology can develop and create the fairer world, but, at the same time, without causing some of the issues that might occur if we are not responsible in using this technology.

MJ: Thank you so much for speaking with us and attending BlockShow!

AT: Thank you so much. It was my pleasure.

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MIT Comes Up With Three Ways To Take Bitcoin Down

The MIT Technology Review has published an article today, April 24, called “Let’s Destroy Bitcoin,” detailing three ways that the cryptocurrency could be “brought down.”

The first option, according to the article, is a government takeover of Bitcoin with the creation of a Federal Reserve-backed coin (Fedcoin):

“The year is two-thousand-something-big, and it’s the day your taxes are due. But you don’t file them. Instead an algorithm automatically makes a withdrawal from your electronic wallet, in a currency called Fedcoin.”

This new blockchain would have verified financial institutions as the authorized nodes instead of peer-to-peer networks, “basically, trusted institutions,” Yale undergrad Sahil Gupta told the MIT Technology Review. The article notes that the Bank of Canada built a simulation of such a system on Ethereum (ETH) in 2016.

Option two is a Facebook stealth takeover of Bitcoin, which involves the social media site creating a BTC wallet for all of its users, rewarding them in the cryptocurrency for interacting with ads, and giving them an ad-free experience if they let Facebook mine on their computer’s unused power (as Salon offered earlier this year):

“If Facebook could persuade a large enough fraction of Bitcoin users and miners to run its own proprietary version of the Bitcoin software, the company would thereafter control the rules. It could then refashion Bitcoin as a corporate version of the Fedcoin described above.”

Facebook could also take control away from Bitcoin by issuing their own cryptocurrency, just like messaging app Telegram is in the process of doing after their combined $1.7 bln Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) held earlier this year.

The third way of making Bitcoin “irrelevant” is the creation of multiple new cryptocurrencies for every situation:

“You’re in the checkout line at the grocery store. Inside your phone’s digital wallet you find not only Fedcoin and FacebookCoin but also AppleCash, ToyotaCash, and a coin specific to the store you’re standing in. There’s also a coin redeemable for babysitting services, and another that gets you rides on your local subway system.”

This option, according to MIT Technology Review, is “already happening,” as companies are creating their own coins or tokens to be used just for their services, like Kodak’s ICO to form a currency used to license photographs.

How Bitcoin can prevent any of these options from taking place is to capitalize on its advantages, namely that “Bitcoin transactions are anonymous and impossible to censor.”

However, the article notes that the US National Security Agency (NSA) is already attempting to link people’s identities with their BTC addresses, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, and if governments “seek to create and enforce blacklists,” they could pressure the “crucial” BTC miners.

At the end of March, Snowden had said in an interview that Bitcoin’s Blockchain ledger was “devastatingly public” and that a good alternative to fiat that cannot be controlled by the government has not yet appeared.

MIT Technology review concludes that “if cryptocurrencies are to be widely used, it will be the habits of the masses, not the wishes of Bitcoin’s early adopters, that determine what becomes of Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision.”

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Edward Snowden On Bitcoin: World Needs Better Option To Avoid Gov’t Coercion

US whistleblower Edward Snowden voiced concerns over Bitcoin’s long-term prospects in an interview on March 22, saying the cryptocurrency’s public Blockchain made it susceptible to abuse.

Speaking via webcam in an interview with Coin Center director of research Peter Van Valkenburgh at the Blockstack Berlin 2018 conference, Snowden agreed Bitcoin’s ledger was “devastatingly public.”

“The much larger structural flaw, the long-lasting flaw, is its public ledger,” he said of Bitcoin, adding that he nonetheless “may” have used it to buy server infrastructure in 2013.

Bitcoin’s future remains a hot topic of debate this year as technical improvements to its network increasingly allow it to be used as an instant, near-free currency once again.

This week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told mainstream media that he foresees a “single currency” for the internet coming within ten years. “I personally believe that it will be Bitcoin,” he added.

For Snowden, however, a true alternative to fiat currencies that balances mass appeal with lack of government control has yet to surface:

“It’s a question of how do we design competing systems that are simply so attractive that they will not be ignored by the global consumer base but also the governments themselves who are seeking to compete against them will not simply be able to outlaw them and have that be meaningful.”

Not just Bitcoin came in for questioning, but altcoins as well; Snowden confirmed he had used Monero, while reiterating his support for ZCash as the “most interesting” altcoin currently on the market due to its “unique” privacy setup.

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Van Valkenburgh himself was fresh from a US Congressional hearing on the future of cryptocurrency regulation that took place last week on March 14.

As one of the four key witnesses at the hearing, defence of Bitcoin’s core values was a conspicuous priority in the face of opposition from some political sources.

“The fundamental innovation of Bitcoin is digital scarcity,” he told lawmakers in his testimony.

“That digital scarcity can then be employed by innovative people for a variety of innovative purposes. A token that is scarce and transferable from person to person can be used just like money, just as any good throughout history from gold to seashells.”

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Edward Snowden: Public Ledger Is Bitcoin's Big Flaw

Edward Snowden, who became notorious for exposing the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive surveillance agenda in 2013, has said bitcoin’s central flaw may not lie in its transaction rate limitations, but in its public ledger.

Speaking to an audience through webcam at the Blockstack event in Berlin early March, Snowden for the first time gave the audience his detailed views on the emerging technology. While agreeing that bitcoin will endure for a long period of time, Snowden argued that he does not believe “bitcoin will last forever.”

“Everybody is focused on the transaction rate limitations of bitcoin being its central flaw, and that is a major one,” he said, adding that, actually, “the much larger structural flaw, the long-lasting flaw, is its public ledger.”

The whistleblower further explained that the existing mechanism of the bitcoin blockchain has the problem of balancing recording every transaction history with attempting to scale its capacity in processing these transactions.

“That is simply incompatible with having an enduring mechanism for trade, because you cannot have a lifelong history of everyone’s purchases, all of the interactions be available to everyone and have that work out well at scale,” he told the audience.

Talking of his own personal preference in terms of cryptocurrencies, Snowden said:

“When we talk about which cryptocurrencies are interesting to me, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, zcash for me is the most interesting right now, because the privacy properties of it are truly unique, but we see more and more projects that are trying to emulate this and I think this is a positive thing.”

Snowden also aired the concern that having a public ledger that documents every transaction history, while it may appeal to a global consumer base, could also draw interest from governments that wish to outlaw the technology.

The comments coincide with reports yesterday of leaked documents suggesting that the NSA may be using its powerful surveillance technology to track, not just the blockchain ledger, but also individual bitcoin users of the distributed network.

Elsewhere, Snowden also raised the issue of cryptocurrency technology being used by dictators in launching state-run projects, such as the Petro token recently issued by the Venezuelan government.

Answering a question over whether he is worried about emerging technologies like blockchain “being co-opted by dictators, by powerful entities, corrupt entities,” Snowden said:

“It’s not a question of if they will be, it’s a question of when they will be. It’s a question of how do we design competing systems that are simply so attractive that they will not be ignored by the global consumer base, but also the governments themselves who are seeking to compete against them will not simply be able to outlaw them and have that be meaningful.”

Edward Snowden image via YouTube

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Snowden Ventures Cryptocurrency Opinion on Twitter

Edward Snowden took to Twitter to voice his opinion on two of the world’s top cryptocurrencies.

Both Zcash and Monero claim to be different than other cryptocurrencies by providing users with more secure and completely anonymous transactions.

It might be the reason Snowden, a world-famous advocate for user data security and anonymity, would choose these two digital currencies specifically to venture an opinion on.

On Twitter, a user @masonic_tweets remarked, “Zcash is the only altcoin (that I know of) designed and built by professional and academic cryptographers. Hard to ignore.”

In response, the former Central Intelligence Agency employee wrote, “Agree. Zcash’s privacy tech makes it the most interesting Bitcoin alternative. Bitcoin is great, but “if it’s not private, it’s not safe.”

He also commented on Monero, a supposedly untraceable cryptocurrency that contain privacy mechanisms, but which reported a bug earlier this year.

A statement from developers on the bug read, “it allows for the creation of an unlimited number of coins in a way that is undetectable to an observer unless they know about the fatal flaw and can search for it.”

Snowden replied that Monero is a “great project” pointing out that “the problem with amateur crypto is mistakes happen and have huge consequences for people like me.”

This is also in reference to findings published on MoneroLink that suggest as much as 60 percent of Monero transactions can be linked, meaning that transactions are not as anonymous as users would have initially hoped.

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Edward Snowden: Zcash Is 'Most Interesting Bitcoin Alternative'

Noted whistleblower Edward Snowden has said that the privacy oriented cryptocurrency zcash is the “most interesting alternative” to bitcoin.

Posted in response to a tweet from technologist Mason Borda stating: “Zcash is the only altcoin (that i know of) designed and built by professional and academic cryptographers. Hard to ignore,” Snowden replied, “Agree.”

He continued:

“Zcash’s privacy tech makes it the most interesting Bitcoin alternative. Bitcoin is great, but “if it’s not private, it’s not safe.'”

Snowden is a prominent privacy advocate, and is most well known for his massive leak of classified NSA documents in 2013.

Asked for his thoughts on monero, a competing private currency, Snowden said it was “amateur crypto” and pointed to traceability issues within the tech.

Snowden said that such design errors could put fellow whistleblowers at risk, stating: “Mistakes happen and have huge consequences for people like me.”

The statements fed into the existing rivalry between the competing currencies. In the resulting flood of Twitter responses, Monero developer Richard Spagni strongly defended his project’s technology, while the creator of litecoin, Charlie Lee, stated: “I own Monero but not Zcash”.

Zcash and monero are both geared towards providing privacy for their users, but use different tools to – arguably it seems – achieve the same end result. While zcash is based on a cryptographic operation called zk-snarks, monero works by obfuscating information with ring signatures and stealth addresses.

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Zcash Company, the for-profit entity supporting zcash’s development.

Snowden posters image via Shutterstock

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