Ethereum Dev Confirms User Data Is Hard To Protect

According to a core developer at Ethereum, Peter Szilagyi who is also overseeing the development of the Ethereum software client Geth, people aren’t aware of how much of their information is out in the open.

What Szilagyi is referring to here is the fact that little attention is focused on Ethereum’s underlying network layer, where information is exposed in complex and unpredictable ways.

Of course, it is known that there is an awareness of such exposure that’s given rise to a continuous acceleration in research on how to better obscure user data at an application level, which sits on top of a fully transparent system that publishes smart contract and transaction data to the blockchain itself.

In a recent interview, Szilagyi called the peer-to-peer components that are underneath the second biggest blockchain by market cap as a kind of black magic.

The current state of affairs was brought up during his talk at the annual developer conference, Devcon4, in Prague earlier last week when Szilagyi explained several of his concerns that might cause user metadata to leak out over time. The worst case scenario is that it’s provided with a basis for an accurate, global map of all the locations of all the users on Ethereum.

During the talk, Szilagyi looked at two ways in which this could happen, with a focus on a website such as popular blockchain explorer, Etherscan and light clients such as mobile browser-based applications.

Speaking to CoinDesk Szilagyi said:

“When people are transitioning away from full nodes they are giving up certain guarantees and I just want to highlight what potential issues might arise.”

After he encountered issues, Szilagyi followed his pursuit of a side project which is an alternative to Facebook which is decentralised and private by default. As a result of the research, Szilagyi said metadata leaks make it harder to interact with others privately.

Szilagyi said that:

“We don’t have that in Ethereum. The reason why these leaks began to bother me is because of that project.”

Last week, Szilagyi said that many of the problems are fixed in deeply so that it’s hard to address them without running the risk of breaking applications which run on the top of Ethereum.

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