How Are Zero-Knowledge Proofs Changing the World?

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Zero-Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs) are a novel technology emerging from the cryptocurrency and blockchain space that have the potential to address some of the trickiest security problems emerging in the world.

Apart from enhancing online transactions and securing digital identities, ZKPs also have the potential to address some of the web’s biggest privacy challenges.

Essentially ZKPs are a key component that help to keep certain details private while still confirming that those details are correct without actually having to reveal any important or vital information.

Despite their complexity and the high computational resources required, ongoing advancements make ZKP more accessible.

Time to explore how ZKPs are changing everything digital.

Key Takeaways

  • Zero-Knowledge Proofs offer a novel approach to digital privacy and security, allowing for the verification of information without disclosing the actual data.
  • ZKP technology is becoming more accessible to developers, leading to a wider range of applications that span beyond the crypto space.
  • Despite their potential, the adoption of ZKPs faces challenges related to their complexity and the significant computational resources required.
  • But abilities such as proving transactions and identities are valid — without revealing sensitive information — are a needed addition to the online world.

ZKPs – A Revolutionary Approach to Digital Privacy

Zero-knowledge proofs are a fairly recent technological advancement that has progressed from the realm of pure academic research into commercial applications via blockchain tech over the last 10 years.

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Adam Gagol, the co-founder of Aleph Zero, a decentralized privacy Layer 1 blockchain, explained:

“This technology is being used more and more, especially in areas like online payments and secure communication, to keep information private.

 

“For instance, it helps keep financial transactions private by confirming that a transaction is valid without showing how much money was sent or who was involved.

 

“It’s also being used for things like proving you are who you say you are online without giving away personal details, ensuring votes in digital elections are counted without showing who you voted for, and letting businesses share information securely without revealing the specifics.”

Will Cove, the head of community at Mina Foundation, a zero-knowledge blockchain, told Techopedia that ZKPs are becoming cheap to experiment and build with, becoming more accessible to developers, and moving far beyond the original target demographic of cryptographers, researchers, and mathematicians.

Cove noted:

“Most projects in the ZK space are open-source, so each new library, framework, or application is one more step in the direction towards adoption. Bringing zkApps onto Mina’s mainnet will be a watershed moment for ZK, and we’re going to see an influx of developers, ideas, and applications as tech continues to evolve.”

ZKPs Are Key in Designing Secure Systems

The nature of Zero-Knowledge Proofs allows them to verify information without actually having to disclose what it is — so they become a key tool in the design of secure systems.

Aleph Zero’s Gagol explained that without the invention of ZKPs, a number of current applications such as private financial transactions or systems designed to handle large volumes of data securely would struggle to operate efficiently at scale.

Additionally, ZKPs can be integrated into existing platforms to improve their accessibility and user experience.

Mina Foundations Cove noted:

“Take, for example, Web3 gaming, where limited transaction capacity reduces the number of daily active players applications can handle.

“This becomes a problem when these apps are looking to compete with the advanced features and UX of traditional gaming. ZK tech can improve application efficiency and help cultivate a more enriching on-chain gaming experience.”

Brennen Schlueter, CMO of Aleo, which offers a platform for ZK apps, said that while ZKPs provide so much potential for the further development of the internet, building ZK applications requires deep expertise in cryptography as well as ZK architecture, which could act as a primary challenge in their further development.

He added that for a very long time, only PhD professionals had the opportunity in the past to access ZK technology, while the computational resources and time necessary to create and verify ZKPs are resource-intensive and can have a high cost, financially and in terms of computational power and energy.

“This has implications for scalability, particularly for applications like blockchain and online services that require fast and efficient processing of transactions or verifications. However, ongoing research and development are focused on making Zero-Knowledge Proofs more efficient and accessible, aiming to reduce these barriers and enable wider adoption of this privacy-enhancing technology.”

New Use Cases of ZKPs Transforming the Internet

The surging popularity of ZKPs in recent years has fueled a surge in new projects utilizing the technology, such as Zero-Knowledge Identity Verification (ZK-ID).

Aleph Zero’s Gagol explained that ZK-ID can enable users to prove they meet age requirements for accessing certain content or services without having to reveal their exact age or birth date. It can also securely access services that may require identity verification, such as banking, healthcare, and even voting.

Other ZKP use cases include the creation of Zpass, which was built on Aleo. Aleo’s Schlueter noted that Zpass allows users to prove facts about themselves without having to actually reveal any sensitive information, thus making the internet a secure yet personalized space.

Mina Foundation’s Cove added that zkIgnite, a community-governed innovation fund that is investing in early-stage ZK projects on Mina, has seen a number of innovative projects emerge so far in the ZK space.

“Outside of scaling, the leading ZK applications are about users being able to prove things about themselves without data ever leaving their local environment. We’re seeing applications across identity (e.g. proof of personhood), healthcare (e.g. sharing research across institutions), voting systems, compliance (zkKYC), and more.”

The Bottom Line

Institutional players will continue to keep a close eye on the future developments of the ZK tech space as privacy continues to be a major hurdle in the digital world.

Zero-Knowledge Proofs represent a pivotal advancement in digital privacy, enabling secure, private transactions without disclosing sensitive details.

As the technology becomes more accessible, it continues to pave the way for a myriad of applications, from enhancing online transactions to secure digital identities and beyond.

Despite the hurdles of complexity and computational demands, the relentless march of innovation is making ZKPs a practical reality.

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Iliana Mavrou
Crypto journalist
Iliana Mavrou
Crypto journalist

Iliana is an experienced crypto/tech journalist reporting on blockchain, regulation, DeFi, and Web3 industries. Before joining Techopedia, she contributed to a number of online publications, including Capital.com, Cryptonews, and Business2Community, among others. In addition to working in journalism, she also has experience in tech and crypto PR.  Iliana graduated from the City University of London with a degree in Journalism in 2021. She is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Communication.