Vitalik Buterin proposes coin "mixer" to bring privacy to Ethereum

24 May, 2019
by David Borman
Vitalik Buterin proposes coin mixer to bring privacy to Ethereum

It is being reported by Coindesk that Vitalik Buterin has proposed that a smart contract-based coin mixer could be created to bring the ability to obscure transactions to the Ethereum network. He claims this could be implemented immediately, without updating the underlying protocol.

In a recent HackMD post, Buterin lays out his idea for how such a mixer would work. Essentially, it would be controlled by just two smart contracts, the mixer and the relayer registry. It works conceptually like some other privacy coins, in that it pools several transactions together into the mixer and uses the registry to complete the transaction.

Anyone interpreting the blockchain could see that people sent money to the mixer, and that money went to other users, but who sent what to who would be obscure. Buterin is quoted in the article, discussing this "anonymity set":

"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."

This all comes as Buterin admits "there are large privacy problems in the ethereum ecosystem." As it is now, all transactions are traceable, even if complicated, because they are all visible on the blockchain. Similar issues affect coins like Bitcoin. The Ethereum co-founder feels this is turning some off to platform, however implementing these smart contracts should give users an option for anonymity.

Sending anonymous transactions would cost extra fees, however Buterin feels this is a small problem because it would be an optional feature and most users wouldn't need it for most transactions.

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