Governments can crack cryptocurrencies at will, breaking their security open and stealing our coins. That’s not something many of us want to hear, with our Bitcoin et al. sitting comfortably in our crypto wallet. But that was the message delivered by David Chaum, inventor of digital cash and founder of DigiCash, a Bitcoin precursor.
Speaking at Paris Blockchain Week Summit today, Chaum set out his vision for privacy in payments and messaging technology, arguing that it will become a necessity in the very near future. But he also gave a dystopian view of the situation as it is right now, claiming that governments can easily crack elliptic curve technology—one of the key pieces of security that underlies the Bitcoin network and that of many other cryptocurrencies today.
“Someone like myself who has worked in government and high stakes industrial security knows elliptic curves are a joke compared to the capabilities of a national laboratory. When they want to take these down, they will,” Chaum said.
Chaum is the founder of Elixxir, a privacy-focused, quantum-resistant, blockchain platform. It claims to be able to process more than 100,000 transactions per second, far higher than Bitcoin’s seven.
Chaum has became known as the inventor of digital cash—another term for electronic money—after a paper he wrote in 1981 laid out an early vision of the cryptocurrencies we see today. He went on to found DigiCash, in 1990, but it’s electronic cash prototypes were never widely adopted.
In his keynote speech, he argued that, now that mobile payments are more popular, we’ll see a much greater demand for online privacy. The widespread protests against Facebook, for its handling of user data, demonstrate that this has already started. But he added that it’s not just personal data that is at stake, it’s also metadata—the aggregate of everyone’s data.
Chaum presented two possible futures: we either get a handle on our personal data or we let governments and businesses control it, which means that our data could end up in the hands of artificial intelligence (AI). “This is very serious, probably the biggest question of our time,” he said.
Chaum then went on to provide a comprehensive overview of a future dystopian world where AI handles all our data, and asked: do we really want robots in control?
And the answer? Elixxir, obviously, fits the bill, but any platform with the same level of privacy and security will do. But we need to act now, Chaum argues, before it becomes the norm for our data to be used and sold.
So, is Chaum right that our coins are in danger or is he simply spreading FUD to sell a product? It's a strategy that isn’t exactly uncommon in crypto.