Privacy and anonymity of transactions are the main issues in any blockchain. Recently, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has come up with the idea of how to address these issues and improve the network’s privacy.
“We need a first step toward more privacy,” Buterin stated.
In a HackMD post, he described so-called ‘minimal mixer design’ that could send fixed quantities of Ethereum from one account to another without the link being visible on-chain, which means that instead of making a normal transaction with money going from your wallet to another one being publicly listed on the blockchain, the users could actually make the transaction via multiple addresses.
The system would be based on creating two smart contracts: mixer and relayer registry. With these contracts, users would have the option of whether to make the transactions more private (using the anonymity set) or not.
As Buterin has explained, the system is still far from being perfectly anonymous, as transactions related to your wallet could reveal the true links between you and the money. However, it is worth to take care of the anonymity set as the larger it is, the harder it is to track your transactions.
Buterin told CoinDesk:
“Anonymity set is cryptography speak for ‘set of users that this thing could have come from.’ For example if I sent you 1 ETH and you can’t tell who exactly it was from but you can tell that it came from (myself, Alice, Bob or Charlie), then the anonymity set has size 4. The bigger the anonymity set the more privacy you have.”
Further, Vitalik Buterin noted that the solution retains the advantage of a public ledger while not disclosing the exact sender via the anonymity set. According to Buterin, the minimal mixer design would not require a change to the Ethereum protocol, and it could be accessed by users only via the smart contracts A basic form of the idea could be implemented today.
In a recent tweet, Buterin wrote:
The main use case I’m thinking of is a one-off send from one account to another account so you can use applications without linking that account to the one that has all your tokens in it. So even though it is a 2m gas cost, it only needs to be paid once per account, not too bad.
— Vitalik Non-giver of Ether (@VitalikButerin) May 22, 2019
The idea proposed by Vitalik Buterin is indeed a very perspective one, as it is very easy to implement.
Eric Conner, a product researcher at blockchain startup Gnosis, commented on the design:
“Strengths are it gives us a solid privacy solution if users want it. The goal is to make a solution that can be easily integrated into current wallets.”
However, it is notable that this privacy solution would require users to pay a fee, as well as most apps working on Ethereum network.
Another issue that such a mixer can face is not a very positive attitude from lawmakers who can not decide on how legal the idea is. Recently, Interpol closed BestMixer, a prominent token mixer, for the same reasons.