Programmable Privacy

Programmable privacy redefines data protection in decentralized applications (dApps), offering a flexible concept that empowers users and developers to personalize privacy settings.


Programmable privacy redefines data protection in decentralized applications (dApps), offering a flexible concept that empowers users and developers to personalize privacy settings.

What Is Programmable Privacy?

Programmable privacy redefines data protection in decentralized applications (dApps), offering a flexible concept that empowers users and developers to personalize privacy settings. The basic premise is that users can adjust their specific preferences for sharing and accessing data in a network. Not strictly regarded as technology itself, it is enabled when leveraging zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs). ZKPs provide a unique layer that allows one to prove things without revealing certain information, ensuring both discretion and verifiability. In turn, this makes programmable privacy more a concept than an actual technological offering.

Why Is Programmable Privacy Needed?

After the explosive growth of Web3, privacy has become pivotal as users seek secure, trustless interactions. Programmable privacy addresses these concerns by granting users greater digital identity protection through the opportunity for them to customize their privacy preferences. In turn, users are able to reduce the risk of unauthorized data access. They can maintain their confidentiality, creating an environment that is more secure and centered around the needs of users.

The Benefits of Programmable Privacy

Benefit

Explanation

Enhanced User Privacy

Users can customize levels of visibility to their discretion whilst also minimizing the risk of unauthorized data access and maintaining confidentiality.

Flexibility & Customisation

The ability to customize privacy preferences gives people control over the manner, timing and recipients of shared data.

Reduced Data Leakage

ZKPs ensure that sensitive information remains concealed, mitigating the risk of data leaks and privacy breaches.

Incentivised Data Sharing

Users may be more willing to share certain information, leading to more accurate and comprehensive datasets. 

Improved Network Efficiency

Instead of broadcasting transactions to the entire network, programmable privacy allows for targeted sharing among relevant parties. This enhances the network’s efficiency by reducing the computational load and network traffic associated with data propagation.

The Limitations of Programmable Privacy

Limitation

Explanation

Technical Complexity

Only highly skilled developers can effectively design and integrate such solutions.

Scalability

Adding privacy features introduces additional computational overhead to networks. In highly active networks, this leads to slower transactions.

Interoperability

Integrating privacy across multiple chains demands standardized protocols and efficient cross-network communication. This is a limiting factor when you consider that each blockchain ecosystem resembles isolated islands, functioning as separate ecosystems with limited connection – each an isolated entity separate from the rest.

User Experience (UX)

The additional freedom to customize privacy settings may overwhelm the user and complicate the UX, leading to accidental data breaches because of misconfigurations.

Quantum Computing

Powerful quantum computers may be able to solve current encryption methods.

Use Cases of Programmable Privacy With ZK Technology

In a financial context, ZK technology allows users to reveal information, like proof of funds, without exposing sensitive data such as the recipient’s identity. Therefore, ZK technologies offer the possibility of financial inclusion by enabling secure and private transactions without the need for traditional finance (TradFi). This has the potential to uplift millions of people, excluded from traditional financial services because of borders or social status by providing them with access to a global and decentralized financial system. 

This can also be applied to supply chain management. For example, ZKPs can enable auditors to verify that a shipment of goods was transported and stored correctly without revealing any additional information. Corporations can prove to regulators that they comply with environmental or labor standards without revealing sensitive information about their operations. End users can also verify the origin of inputs without knowing the entire supply chain.

Programmable privacy achieved with ZK Technology may also improve healthcare applications. This could be achieved by facilitating patient data amongst different healthcare providers whilst maintaining private patient details in the process. 

Decentralized finance (DeFi) is another example of a programmable privacy use case. DeFi allows users to engage in many financial activities, such as lending and borrowing, with discretion. 

Author: Kenny Li,  Co-Founder of p0x Labs and Core Contributor Manta Network
Kenny Li is the Co-Founder of p0x Labs and Core Contributor for Manta Network. Prior to this, Kenny received an MBA from MIT in 2020. Whilst at MIT, he was a teaching assistant for several courses, mainly blockchain based, and worked with the Digital Currency Initiative (DCI). As a successful entrepreneur, Kenny has started, advised, and invested in startups for over a decade.