There’s growing awareness that slick online services are far from free—and that we may be paying too high a price for some of them. Hyper-specific targeted advertisements are creepy, while using our data to tamper with elections raises surveillance risks to a new level. As more payments take place online via apps, a growing trove of personal data is ripe for exploitation.
That’s where David Chaum comes in. His pioneering work in cryptography and digital payments predates bitcoin, and laid important work for its invention. Likewise, he made prescient warnings about online privacy long before data-sharing scandals at major tech companies like Facebook. “Everything you do could be known to anyone else, could be recorded forever,” Chaum told Wired magazine in 1994. “It’s antithetical to the basic principle underlying the mechanisms of democracy.”
His latest venture is called Elixxir, a blockchain designed for fast, secure, and confidential messaging and payments at minimal expense. The design acknowledges that text messagesand payments—from WeChat to WhatsApp Pay—are increasingly intertwined, by popular demand.