Can you keep a secret?
For many blockchain projects – whose basic architecture is a public transaction ledger – it can be a demanding question. But Enigma, a project incubated at the MIT Media Lab that raised $ 45 million in an ICO last year, hopes to make it possible by developing smart, privacy-enabled contracts that call "secret contracts".
And in a sign of the broad applicability of this idea, as revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, eight different blockchain projects will incorporate the Enigma protocol into their services when contracts are launched by the end of the year.
These "launch partners" said the co-founder and CEO of Enigma Guy Zyskind, are already developing the current version of the technology, called "Discovery", inside the testnet, so when the protocol will actually be published, will process user data without disclosing it to external third parties.
Blockchains have always had a complicated relationship with privacy. Despite the rapid adoption of Bitcoin by Silk Road drug dealers, the cryptocurrency turned out to be nothing but anonymous.
And in recent years, intelligent contract platforms such as ethereum have struggled to reconcile the public nature of data on the chain with the privacy of the required users – especially when it comes to sensitive use cases.
The Enigma protocol is notable as it works in addition to existing blockchains. Of course, many of the launch partners – Colendi, Datawallet, Ocean Protocol, ReBloc and Datacoup – are built (or are building) on ethereum.
The protocol guarantees that the user data "remain fully encrypted from the point of view of the network parties who are executing these secret contracts," said Zyskind, while remaining "tamper-proof" as a normal smart contract .
"If you're thinking about the true adoption of blockchain, you have to have Nobody build applications where sensitive information is only live on blockchain for everyone in the world."
We live in a world of oversharing – from what people have eaten for lunch what they think of their boss to what they drank last night.
And while this has proved problematic for some, it is generally seen as the prerogative of the poster.
But some data must remain private. For example, Colendi – one of Enigma's launch partners – is building an etereum-based application for both decentralized credit scoring and microlending.
Bulent Tekmen, co-founder of the project, said that Colendi "requires sensitive information from borrowers", such as bills, bank statements and national identification numbers. The Enigma protocol not only allows to execute such data through the algorithms of Colendi in an encrypted form, but also avoids creating an Equifax-like honeypot for hackers, he suggested.
This idea that some data is too sensitive to put on a public blockchain is the same reason that Ocean Protocol will use Engima as soon as it is launched.
While the Ocean Protocol is creating "a decentralized ecosystem aimed at unlocking data for the consumption of artificial intelligence", some datasets, especially medical data, can not be bought and sold without encryption, said co-founder Don Gossen.
As such, Enigma "makes logical sense" for the Ocean market, Gossen said.
Another data launch partner is Datawallet, which aims to allow users to monetize data from applications such as social media, for example by selling them to advertisers. The goal of the application is "full user empowerment and ownership of data," CEO Serafin Lion Engel told CoinDesk.
In the Datawallet case, Engel said, the protocol will provide Sybil protection, that is, it will prevent bad actors from rotating multiple digital identities to flood the platform. While linking existing social media accounts is a good way to provide such protection, added Enigma's Zyskind, some "do not want to connect to their Facebook account and provide their data."
Enigma has also announced partnerships with Portal Network, which transforms the portfolio and smart contract addresses onto more readable blockchain IDs; Eximchain, a supply chain solution based on the Quorum; ReBloc, an ethereum-based real estate data market; 2key, a second-level network that aims to interrupt social networks; and Datacoup, a platform for monetizing personal data, which is moving to ethereum.
Others to Come
Enigma did not announce an exact date for the launch of the Discovery network live, but Zyskind said that the deadline is the end of 2018 When the protocol is active, the computers or "nodes" on the network will be incentivized to perform secret contract operations with the native ENG Enigma tokens sold in its ICO.
For those familiar with the Enigma white paper, which caused a minor feeling when it was published in 2015, Discovery represents an intermediate stage of the complete Enigma protocol.
The network described in the white paper will perform calculations on encrypted data using a process known as multiparty secure computing (SPMC), in which encrypted information is split into separate parts for different nodes to work separately, while they are still encrypted.
It is then reassembled into an encrypted final result.
In other wo rds, smart contracts perform data operations without ever having to decrypt or decrypt them, so this approach is considered to be particularly secure.
Furthermore, even if all the nodes were able to break the cryptography, they would all have to work together to rebuild the original sensitive data. A single honest node could prevent data loss.
Although this is the ultimate goal, however, the technology will not be ready for the initial launch.
The launch of Discovery will bring the secret contract to ethereum, but they will be hosted in what are called trusted execution environments (TEEs), rather than working through SMPC.
Zyskind said that the TEEs still provide excellent security, however, because "any input data that must go into the calculation, within the execution, is encrypted at the same time. external with a key that exists only within the enclave. "
Regarding SMPC, Zyskind said:
" Expect it in 2019. "
Enigma image of the machine via Shutterstock