Ethereum's Buterin Proposes 'Stealth Addresses' to Enhance Privacy Protections

In a new blog, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin outlines a stealth address system that can help overcome the blockchain’s lack of privacy protections.

AccessTimeIconJan 23, 2023 at 5:12 p.m. UTC
Updated Jan 23, 2023 at 7:12 p.m. UTC
Consensus 2023 Logo
Join the most important conversation in crypto and Web3 taking place in Austin, Texas, April 26-28.

Margaux Nijkerk reports on blockchain protocols with a focus on the Ethereum ecosystem. A graduate of Johns Hopkins and Emory universities, she has a masters in International Affairs & Economics. She holds a very small amount of ETH and other altcoins.

Consensus 2023 Logo
Join the most important conversation in crypto and Web3 taking place in Austin, Texas, April 26-28.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin released a new blog post over the weekend proposing a "stealth address system" for enhanced privacy protections for blockchain users.

In his writing, Buterin notes that assuring privacy remains a big challenge for the ecosystem, and that “improving this state of affairs is an important problem.”

Stealth addresses are generated by wallets and muddle public key addresses in order to transact in a private way. To access these private transactions, one must use a special key called the "spending key.”

Privacy has been a big concern for the Ethereum ecosystem, given that transacting on the blockchain is public. There are already some privacy mechanisms. One notable example, Tornado Cash, has limits, Buterin noted, saying it can only hide “mainstream fungible assets such as ETH [ether] or major ERC-20s.”

Stealth addresses would provide a mechanism to also add privacy protections to non-fungible tokens (NFT) and Ethereum Name Service (ENS) domain names.

Toni Wahrstätter, an Ethereum researcher who also reviewed Buterin’s blog post, told CoinDesk: “Stealth addresses have great potential to be used in every transaction in which the interaction between two parties should not be revealed to the public.”

Wahrstätter emphasized the need for the stealth address system for the expansion of everyday crypto use: “In particular, think of donations or simply payroll checks,” highlighting that users may not want others to see their personal transactions on a public blockchain.

“For example, when I buy a coffee at the supermarket, I might not want the supermarket to know my employer, how much I earn and what I spend it on," Wahrstätter added. "Stealth addresses are yet another, quite straightforward tool to increase the overall privacy in the network.”

DISCLOSURE

Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Margaux Nijkerk reports on blockchain protocols with a focus on the Ethereum ecosystem. A graduate of Johns Hopkins and Emory universities, she has a masters in International Affairs & Economics. She holds a very small amount of ETH and other altcoins.


Learn more about Consensus 2023, CoinDesk’s longest-running and most influential event that brings together all sides of crypto, blockchain and Web3. Head to consensus.coindesk.com to register and buy your pass now.


CoinDesk - Unknown

Margaux Nijkerk reports on blockchain protocols with a focus on the Ethereum ecosystem. A graduate of Johns Hopkins and Emory universities, she has a masters in International Affairs & Economics. She holds a very small amount of ETH and other altcoins.