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"It’s a way to create a separate online reality," says Chaum, "One in which all the various things we now know people like to do online can be done in a lightweight manner under a completely different and new and very attractive privacy and security model."That ambitious privacy toolset aside, Chaum is also building into Priva Tegrity another feature that's sure to be far more controversial: a carefully controlled backdoor that allows anyone doing something “generally recognized as evil” to have their anonymity and privacy stripped altogether.Whoever controls that backdoor within Priva Tegrity would have the power to decide who counts as "evil"—too much power, Chaum recognizes, for any single company or government.And with it, he wants to bring those crypto wars to an end.At the Real World Crypto conference at Stanford University today, Chaum plans to present for the first time a new encryption scheme he calls Priva Tegrity.His inventions include the first-ever cryptocurrency, a 1990s venture known as Digi Cash, and DC Nets, a scheme he invented in the early '80s to allow theoretically perfect anonymity within a group of computers.But perhaps the most influential of Chaum’s privacy ideas was an earlier, simpler scheme he called a “mix network,” a term he coined in 1979.Like other tools Chaum has spent his long career developing, Priva Tegrity is designed to allow fully secret, anonymous communications that no eavesdropper can crack, whether a hacker or an intelligence agency.
In future versions, Chaum and his collaborators plan to add features like larger file sharing for photos and video, the ability to follow Twitter-like feeds, and even financial transactions, all under the cover of strong anonymity with untraceable pseudonyms.
"Priva Tegrity appears to be a decisive step forward in this direction."On top of those security and efficiency tricks, Priva Tegrity's nine-server architecture—with a tenth that works as a kind of "manager" without access to any secret keys—also makes possible its unique backdoor decryption feature.
No single server, or even eight of the nine servers working together, can trace or decrypt a message.
than 30 years since David Chaum launched the ideas that would serve as much of the groundwork for anonymity online.
In doing so, he also helped spark the debate that’s endured ever since, over the anarchic freedoms that digital secrecy enables—the conflict between privacy advocates and governments known today as the “crypto wars.”Now Chaum has returned with his first online privacy invention in more than a decade.