In brief

  • Elena Nadolinksi of Iron Fish and Zac Williamson of Aztec Protocol discussed crypto's relationship with privacy.
  • Both agreed that privacy is fundamentally important for the cryptocurrency industry.

How important is privacy to cryptocurrency users? According to Elena Nadolinksi, founder and CEO of Iron Fish, a privacy coin that uses zk-SNARKs, it's a "privilege" that users ought to cherish.

"Privacy isn't a right, it's a privilege, and it's a privilege worth keeping," said Nadolinksi during yesterday's Ethereal Summit, adding that privacy adds to innovation, because people are comfortable in the knowledge that their innovations are their own.

Nadolinksi was joined by Zac Williamson, co-founder and CTO of Aztec Protocol, a platform that uses zero-knowledge proofs to bring anonymous transactions to Ethereum, and Robert Drost, head of research and development at ConsenSys, to discuss the role of privacy coins in the wider crypto industry.

Williamson, though, had a slightly different view on privacy: "Privacy ought to be a right, but it isn't so much these days, particularly on the web," he said. What's more, the boom of the DeFi industry on Ethereum has raised the stakes for privacy. If you want to avoid third-party advertising or targeted scams against you, privacy can mitigate those risks, Williamson added.

Yet, despite the complex technology at play behind the crypto industry's privacy coins, the most popular coins—like Bitcoin—are not considered to be privacy focused. That suggests large parts of the crypto industry is apathetic towards privacy.

What about apathy about privacy?

Beyond consumer apathy of these products, privacy coin adoption is potentially also being held back by the concern that these technologies give rise to illicit finance. Both Nadolinksi and Williamson addressed this concern:

"When we catch bad actors in the real world, you have suspicious activity, you go to an entity like a bank, you subpoena the bank and you get records and you catch the bad guy. And so for cryptocurrencies, it's actually a very very similar story now," Nadolinksi said.

Williamson, in turn, said improvements in technology could solve concerns about bad actors using privacy coins.

As for how Iron Fish plans to widen its user base, Nadolinski said she is currently focused on user experience. "Ok, how do we make a privacy coin that's easy to use, and fully private all the time?" she posited.

Most cases in which a privacy coin is useful, said Nadolinksi, would be aided by the use of a stablecoin. "So, for us, how do we expand Iron Fish to not just one coin that's volatile, but actually have multiple assets?"

Answering that, said Nadolinksi, could help Iron Fish become the go-to solution for crypto consumers concerned about their privacy.