AZTEC Protocol, a smart contract-backed privacy solution for Ethereum, has officially kicked off its 30-day “Ignition Ceremony,” a trusted setup process that will successfully underpin AZTEC’s privacy features if even one of the effort’s 260-plus participants partakes in the ceremony honestly.
Launched on October 25th, the Ignition event now puts AZTEC on course for becoming the inaugural privacy network activated on Ethereum.
As the project’s chief executive officer Thomas Pocock explained last month, the randomization ceremony can be generally likened to the shuffling of playing cards:
“A good analogy is a group of people shuffling a deck of cards. Each person shuffles the deck (in AZTEC’s ceremony, that’s the process of adding randomness into the transcript), and then hands on the pack to the next participant.”
Once the “shuffling” is finished in a month’s time, the ensuing randomness will support the zero-knowledge proofs, or zk-SNARKs, that power the project’s lone smart contract, the so-called AZTEC Cryptography Engine (ACE). The ceremony is akin to the Powers of Tau event the Zcash privacy coin project completed last year.
Once ACE is live, the system will allow users to make private Ethereum transactions in two distinct ways: one involves the direct creation of Aztec tokens that can be used anonymously, and the other involves wrapping, which will entail using ACE to peg private tokens to other assets like ether (ETH) or ERC20 tokens.
AZTEC Expert Also Recently Helped Outline PLONKs
A new kind of privacy solution has appeared in the cryptoverse, and AZTEC team member Zachary Williamson had a hand in bringing it to reality.
Dubbed PLONK, Williamson and other researchers released a paper this fall that illustrated how the new zk-SNARK construction — which requires only a single trusted setup — could work.
Why is it notable? Precisely because it only needs one updateable setup ceremony in perpetuity instead of requiring a trusted setup for every project that is built atop it, like other systems have in the past.
As Ethereum creator and co-founder Vitalik Buterin explained of PLONKs last month:
“[I]nstead of there being one separate trusted setup for every program you want to prove things about, there is one single trusted setup for the whole scheme after which you can use the scheme with any program (up to some maximum size chosen when making the setup).”
The innovation could be a game changer in the cryptography ecosystem going forward, and the AZTEC team helped make it a reality.
A Pretty Good Year for Ethereum Privacy Solutions
The rise of AZTEC and PLONKs are just the latest privacy developments to hit the scene in what’s already proven to be an action-packed year for Ethereum on the privacy front.
One of the firsts to make waves in 2019 was the Zether project, which like AZTEC also relies on smart contract tech.
“We describe Zether as a smart contract that can be executed either individually or by other smart contracts to exchange confidential amounts of a token, denoted by ZTH,” the solution’s builders explained at the time.
American banking giant JP Morgan followed up Zether’s arrival with its own Anonymous Zether project, which was designed to facilitate private enterprise transactions on the bank’s permissioned Ethereum fork, Quorum.
Other notable Ethereum privacy solutions that have materialized in the past few months include Nightfall — created by none other than “Big Four” accounting firm EY — and Ethereum 9¾, a proof of concept that can conceal token transfers.
There’s also been advances when it comes to mixers. Heiswap and Tornado.cash launched this year, and a new crypto primitive in “Mixicles” that was developed by researchers with the decentralized oracle project Chainlink.