“People don’t realize how much information is out in the open.”
That’s Péter Szilágyi, an ethereum core developer who manages development on the ethereum software client Geth. He’s referring to the fact that little attention has been paid to ethereum’s underlying network layer, where information is exposed in complex, unpredictable ways.
Indeed, there’s an awareness of the implications of such exposure that’s given rise to an ongoing acceleration in research on how to better obscure user data at the application level, which sits on top of a fully transparent system that publishes smart contract and transaction data the blockchain itself.
In an interview, Szilágyi described the peer-to-peer components that underlie the world’s second-largest blockchain by market capitalization as a “black magic thing.”
This state of affairs was highlighted during his talk at the annual developer conference, Devcon4, in Prague last week. Szilágyi detailed a number of concerns that could cause user metadata to leak out over time – and under the worst-case scenario, provide the basis for an accurate, global map of ethereum user locations.
During last Friday’s talk, Szilágyi focused on two ways in which this could happen, with a focus on websites like popular blockchain explorer, Etherscan, and “light clients” such as mobile or browser-based apps.
“When people are transitioning away from full nodes they are giving up certain guarantees and I just want to highlight what potential issues might arise,” Szilágyi told CoinDesk.
Szilágyi began encountering the issues following his pursuit of a side project: an alternative to Facebook that is decentralized and private-by-default. As a result of the research, Szilágyi said metadata leaks make it difficult to interact anonymously with others.
“We don’t have that in ethereum,”