ZenCash: The Privacy Coin on a Mission to Restore Your Sense of Self
Privacy is a basic human right, one that ranks right up there with freedom of speech and a right to life itself. Like any human right though, it’s easy to take it for granted – until it’s taken away. In the wake of the Snowden documents, which revealed the extent to which every digital citizen on earth is subject to unprecedented surveillance, privacy became fashionable again. One way in which web users have sought to claw back their privacy – not to mention their financial freedom – is through the use of cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin is most obvious example of cryptocurrency in action, but as anyone with even a vague knowledge of blockchain will confirm, bitcoin makes for a rubbish privacy coin. It, along with the likes of ethereum and litecoin, will empower the individual with freedom from the state, but it won’t grant them much by way of privacy. That’s the trouble with public blockchains: they’re public. Anyone can monitor the movement of funds from A to B and then, without too much work, assign a real-world identity to the owner of each address. The solution to this problem is to use a privacy coin i.e a cryptocurrency that maintains many of the same characteristics as bitcoin, but which obfuscates the movement of funds between addresses. Enter ZenCash.
World War Z: The Battle for Privacy
In the cryptocurrency community, Z isn’t just the last letter of the alphabet – it’s also the last word in privacy. If a coin starts with the letter Z, there’s a good chance that anonymous transactions are one of its defining features. It all started with the Zerocoin project, which birthed Zcash. From there came a number of spin-offs and sibling coins, including ZenCash, which was created as a fork of Zclassic in early 2017. In action, here’s how it works: the ZenCash wallet displays two balances, your transparent balance and your private balance. Both balances pertain to the same address, but only the transparent balance is visible. Users can create a new transparent or private address for a ZenCash wallet at the click of a button.
When it’s time to send funds to an individual, select the private address they’ve given you and identifiable elements of that transaction won’t be broadcast on the network. As an added bonus, when transferring ZenCash to a private address, you have the option of including a memo which is encrypted. Whether it’s transmitting nuclear detonator codes or simply calling your mate an unsavoury epithet, put it in the memo field and it will reach their eyes, and their eyes only. Pretty neat, huh?
How it Works
For anyone who’s unconcerned with the technology behind the privacy features in ZenCash, the following section can be skipped. Nevertheless, it makes for interesting reading. There are two pieces of tech which make ZenCash possible: zk-SNARKs and TLS encryption. The latter is pretty self-explanatory: Transport Layer Encryption is an updated version of SSL, and it enables cryptographically secure communications to be transmitted over the internet.
Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge is a bit of a mouthful, hence zk-SNARKs. These have gathered attention recently because Vitalik Buterin has been trialling them on the ethereum network, but they originated with Zcash, and thus are an integral part of ZenCash too. This technology uses zero-knowledge cryptography, which enables transactions to be verified on the blockchain by miners but without revealing who sent or received the coins.
In essence, it enables one party to prove that a certain statement is true without revealing any additional information about that statement. The proof of this statement can’t be falsified, so the verifier – the miner – can be certain that a specific transaction was broadcast on the ZenCash, without knowing that the source of that transaction was Bob and the recipient was Alice. (For some reason, Bob and Alice are the names always invoked in these examples. Don’t ask why; that’s just how it is.) Combine zk-SNARKs and TLS encryption and you get a pretty darn private coin.
Keep Calm and Use Zen
There’s more to ZenCash than privacy-enhancing technology though, even if that’s its most defining feature. Arguably the best thing about the coin is not its technology, interesting it is, but rather its social value. For any piece of technology to gain traction, and ultimately mass adoption, it needs to have an active community of users who are enthusiastic about the project and incentivized to share its benefits with the world. You could have the world’s most private coin, but if there’s no one to send it to, it’s pointless. It is in this regard that ZenCash shines.
Many new cryptocurrencies boast of being “community-driven” and “user-centric”, but saying and doing are two very different things. The ZenCash Foundation operates as a non-profit tasked with spreading the gospel and raising awareness of all things Zen. It operates in a manner similar to the Dash Foundation, which performs the same role for Dash (a cryptocurrency whose name is a portmanteau of “digital cash”).
The ZenCash Foundation aims to provide its growing community of users with “financial inclusion and empowerment”. In other words, the freedom to take control of your own destiny, without being beholden to the whims of banks, governments and other entities. The team behind ZenCash are on a mission to build the world’s most decentralised organisation – an entity in which decision-making is in the hands of the many and not just the few. Given concerns that major cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, bitcoin cash and ethereum are becoming too centralised, attempts to push back against this are to be welcomed.
For anyone whose values overlap with those espoused by the ZenCash Foundation, visit the ZenCash website to take the next step. The currency itself can be purchased from several exchanges, the most notable being Bittrex. Another way to get hold of ZenCash of course is by mining it, the intricacies of which can again be gleaned from the official website. Finally, there’s the option of running a SecureNode, a feature which will be launching on 15th December. These nodes help to secure the network and in return SecureNode operators earn a payment for their services.
ZenCash is by no means the only privacy-centric cryptocurrency on the market. Nevertheless, with its blend of strong anonymity features and small but passionate community that is motivated by more than pure profit, the future of ZenCash bodes well. To finish with a suitable rallying cry, reclaim your financial freedom and restore your sense of self with ZenCash. Boom.
By Ed Uncovered