SCRT Labs Founder Guy Zyskind On Building Privacy Into The Blockchain



For people looking at blockchain technology a certain way, SCRT Labs founder and CEO, Guy Zyskind’s insistence on the importance of privacy on the blockchain may not seem all that necessary. In fact, it could even seem at odds with a much more commonly celebrated aspect of the blockchain – complete transparency.

And yet, it’s easy to find yourself at the same conclusion that he did, over seven years ago, when looking at things from his angle. Especially if you have a chance to listen to him, or read any of his writings on the blockchain.

After all, Zyskind has spent years building and researching tools for the blockchain where full transparency is actually a problem. This leads him to challenge whether the kind of blockchain transparency we’re used to is what we want at all.

“Transparency is like the toxic waste of blockchains. It’s something you do because you have to. But I don’t think – at least in its full form – it’s what you want.  What you want are proofs.”

SCRT Labs is working on so much more than just NFTs from acclaimed artists. Credit: Guy Zyskind

From MIT To SCRT Labs, Zyskind Has Had One Key Goal

Zyskind realized how privacy was an important yet missing aspect of the blockchain while at MIT. He was participating in the school’s Bitcoin Hackathon in 2014 when the nature of his project led straight into a blockchain roadblock.

“We wanted to do an identity, private data storage solution on the blockchain. Then I realized that everything is public. I even posted on the Ethereum forum like, guys, everyone can see each other’s data. I’m trying to build an identity solution. And they were like, Oh, no, it’s not supported. That’s not how blockchain works. So I said, Damn. That’s not very useful.

This was a simple realization – that the blockchain wasn’t equipped to handle many of its potential, important future use cases. And it sent him down the rabbit hole which finally led him to what he does now as the CEO of SCRT Labs.

Zyskind founded the company that became SCRT Labs after wrestling with the issue of blockchain privacy as a master’s student at MIT. Credit: SCRT Labs

Secret Contracts Solve For Correctness While Keeping Privacy Intact

To be sure, that we commonly view full transparency as a way to solve for correctness on the blockchain makes sense on a certain level. That is to say, it’s easy to prove that nobody is tampering with information coded into the blockchain if everyone, everywhere can see it.

The thing is, according to Zyskind, that might not be the best way to do that. Especially for use cases – ID, health records, taking loans – where people would likely want their private data to remain private.

“You need to know just as much information as you need. In many cases, you don’t need to know anything. That’s where zero-knowledge proofs come from. You just need to know, that what you want to know is correct – no one’s tampered with it, no one’s done anything with it. You don’t really need transparency.”

With this in mind, Zyskind and the SCRT Labs team created what they call Secret Contracts. To explain, secret contracts are smart contracts that offer the same blockchain-powered reliability of smart contracts, while maintaining privacy.

Take, for example, the idea of voting via blockchain. Of course, it would be great to vote using a system that meant that no one could tamper with your vote. What’s not so great is the idea of your vote being a public record, like it would be on a regular blockchain.

What Secret Contracts do, is make it so that nodes on a blockchain can still log data without having access to view it. Thus, we can have the correctness of the blockchain, without the forced transparency when it comes to sensitive data.

Zyskind believes that NFTs creatively using the features of Secret Network can reframe the space’s feelings about privacy. Credit: Redacted Club

Applying SCRT Labs’ Secret Contracts To NFTs

Zyskind and SCRT Labs have applied this thinking to a whole host of blockchain tools. To list, this includes their blockchain, Secret Network, and their token $SCRT. Not to mention the relatively new Secret NFTs.

Secret NFTs launched with the huge announcement of a partnership with Quentin Tarantino to sell “Pulp Fiction NFTs”. Since then, SCRT has expanded its roster of NFTs even more. However, Zyskind did have some reservations about NFTs at first.

“I was a bit skeptical around NFTs in the beginning because I wasn’t sure if it was a phase or not. But I’ve come to recognize the value in building communities. And I realized that in many NFTs, that’s the valuable thing.”

And, as the Tarantino NFTs show, the Secret Network offers a solution to something that hits close to home for the entire community. That’s right – Secret NFTs might put the “right-click-save” meme to bed, once and for all.

As much as the NFT community has learned to dismiss it, Zyskind thinks there’s more to the right-click-save commentary than a lot of the community is willing to admit.

“I think the right click thing really became such a meme that a lot of people in the NFT space have become so defensive. So now it’s almost automatic that they say, you know, you don’t need privacy. It’s fine. It’s a feature that they wanted. I think that’s a defense mechanism, personally.”

With that said, Zyskind isn’t looking to lecture anybody on the need for privacy in NFTs. Indeed, he believes that the innovative projects on SCRT’s network will be able to attract people through their creative use of Secret Network’s features.

“Just let people do cool stuff. And eventually, people are gonna are going to realize that, this is something that they want.”

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