Edward Snowden is arguably the world’s most famous whistleblower – and in his commitment to privacy, he has also championed Zcash (ZEC). When the Privacy Coin launched in 2016, Snowden was instrumental.
The history of cryptocurrencies is getting a new, cinematic entry: whistleblower Edward Snowden was instrumental in 2016 from his Russian exile in launching the privacy coin Zcash (ZEC) with a method designed to rule out later compromise. This makes public a video from
Zcash Media, which can also be considered authentic because of an appearance by Snowden. To follow the story, one must recall the technological foundation for Zcash.
Zcash promises that transactions can remain anonymous. To achieve this, they are mixed into pools, a method similar to Bitcoin Mixer. But in Zcash’s genesis, the risk lurked that one of the parties would keep passwords or that their hardware might be hacked. So Zcash founder Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn fell for the idea of implementing a very special procedure. Through a “trusted setup” (translated: trustworthy arrangement), Zcash should be above any suspicion right from the start that founders or watching intelligence agencies still know any backdoor into the system. Without going into technical detail: At a ceremony for the launch of Zcash, a master password was created and divided into six sections. These six parts of the master password were only used once, and the master key to Zcash became immediately unusable if just one of the six parts was irrevocably destroyed.
So Zooko Wilcox-O’Hearn is thinking about which fellows might be credible enough to kick things off at Zcash using this method. Documented are his brother Nathan Wilcox, Bitcoin Core developer Peter Todd, security expert Derek Hinch, Peter van Valkenburg of the Coin Center think tank – and a certain John Dobbertin. Only now, half a decade later, did Edward Snowden agree that his identity behind the pseudonym “John Dobbertin” should be revealed. In doing so, Snowden was important to clarify that he was not paid for his involvement with Zcash, nor did he later receive any benefits.
Security at Zcash founding drove extreme blooms
So the Genesis team at Zcash had a thoroughly professional understanding of how a privacy coin could be compromised. Peter Todd, in his preparations for the “trusted setup,” even went so far as to conduct a sort of clandestine operation. Todd bought a last-minute plane ticket, then rented a car and bought a new, original boxed computer. In turn, he wrapped it in several layers of aluminum foil and kept reassuring himself during the car ride that no CIA agent was following him. At least, that’s how Todd told his part of the story several times.
Snowden, on the other hand, had already landed in Moscow on his flight from U.S. authorities and had taken up exile there. Whether his computer was “clean” is anyone’s guess. But his credibility in privacy matters should be undisputed, and so his current confession that he considers Zcash to be a real privacy coin should also be understood. Others involved in ZEC’s “trusted setup” have stated that they completely destroyed their hardware after the ceremony by burning heat. As mentioned: it was enough to irrevocably eliminate part of the master password at Zcash to transparently protect the entrance to ZEC’s code. This seems very likely with all the details that are now known about the ceremony.
Conclusion: Zcash in evolution – Edward Snowden now a figurehead
Originally, Zcash was based on a copy of the code of Bitcoin (BTC), which is where the maximum amount of 21 million ZEC comes from. Back in 2018, Zcash changed the code once to modernize the Privacy Coin, at that time hundreds of individuals were enlisted for the ceremony. But among privacy coins, Zcash has lagged behind the number one Monero (XMR) in terms of awareness and market penetration until now. Now, in May 2022, an upgrade called Halo is expected to establish a new mixer pool of sorts at Zcash called Orchard, which will do completely without a master password. In this respect, it is probably no coincidence that the secret about “John Dobbertin” in the story of the creation of Zcash was revealed right now with the prominent name Edward Snowden.
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