Nathan Wilcox on How Privacy is Essential For Economic FreedomJan 25, 2021
Nathan Wilcox is at the center of the struggle between the opportunities and risks of technology, striving to provide economic freedom to people everywhere with privacy and decentralization.
Nathan is the CTO at Electric Coin Company, where he focuses on project management and engineering on Zcash, a privacy-preserving cryptocurrency.
"I am interested in the fact that technology and open-source has this asymmetric capability that gives end users more control and more capability than in the past," Nathan said on the latest episode of the Follow the White Rabbit podcast. "At the same time, if we look at mainstream products and trends, the technology is not necessarily going to empower people. Privacy is one really big piece of that I believe that people should be able to communicate directly with friends and colleagues without an intermediary being able to control that in a centralized fashion."
"Privacy and decentralization have always been an interest. I believe that technology has an opportunity and a risk in our modern world, Nathan said. "The opportunity is that technology can give individuals more freedom and more protection in a novel way. But the risk is also that there could be pervasive surveillance and pervasive control of how we interact with each other."
Enter Zcash. Unlike most cryptocurrencies, which make every transaction detail public, Zcash offers confidentiality to protect privacy and users' financial history. Launched in 2016 as an extension of Bitcoin, Zcash enables every transaction to be tracked and managed on a decentralized, public blockchain, instead of by a centralized institution, like a bank.
Nathan outlined the need for economic freedom from surveillance through this greater privacy protection. In our personal lives, we might not care too much that a credit card company knows that we bought a cup of coffee in the morning, he said. But knowledge of a series of transactions can paint a fuller picture of our routines and deprive us of our privacy as the card company can suddenly know when and where we are traveling.
Nathan also advocated for privacy in business, outlining how businesses are currently limited over who they choose to partner with because they cannot shield their sensitive financial transactional data from competitors.
Zcash provides the solution through "zero-knowledge proofing", which researchers had been talking about for decades Nathan explained. It is a method where one party can prove to another party that they know a certain value, without conveying any information apart from that single fact that they know that value. It wasn't until just a few years ago that researchers created Zero Cash and paved the way for Nathan and his co-founders to build on that legacy with Zcash and its "shielded" transactions.
"It was research that showed it would be practical to extend Bitcoin with this technology to provide this really strong privacy for transactions."
To discover more about how technology is enabling economic freedom, follow us down the rabbit hole: listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.
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