Last month, “Big Four” international accounting giant EY committed to releasing their Nightfall privacy tool for Ethereum in May 2019. With a few hours left to spare, the firm has officially followed through on that commitment.
On May 31st, EY published to the public domain its repository for the Nightfall system, which was announced in April at the EY Global Blockchain Summit.
The tech, which leverages zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) to obscure transaction details on the Ethereum mainnet, has been designed to allow large enterprises and institutions to use the public Ethereum chain privately instead of, say, forking off a private, permissioned version of Ethereum to achieve the same effect.
Ernst & Young's team of >200 blockchain devs released the code for Nightfall today. It employs zero knowledge proofs to let corporate EY clients build on the Ethereum public chain while retaining privacy, security, reliability, and regulatory compliance.https://t.co/xxHHCweF6v
— justin.leroux.eth (@0xMidnight) May 31, 2019
As Nightfall’s builders explained in its repository, the tool is still experimental but has been released at this point to help hasten mainstream society’s embrace of blockchain’s potential:
“Nightfall integrates a set of smart contracts and microservices, and the ZoKrates zk-snark toolkit, to enable standard ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens to be transacted on the Ethereum blockchain with complete privacy. It is an experimental solution and still being actively developed. We decided to share our research work in the belief that this will speed adoption of public blockchains.”
So why does the sprawling team of blockchain developers at EY think Nightfall can be a game changer in the space? Because the tech could help large organizations feel comfortable in taking the dive onto blockhain, namely Ethereum in Nightfall’s case, as these institutions will simultaneously want superior privacy guarantees and full auditability. As EY succinctly explained in the tool’s announcement last month:
“Companies will still be able to provide full traceability and transaction history to auditors and regulators without revealing transaction content more widely.”
Paul Brody, the leader of global blockchain innovation at EY, has since confirmed that Nightfall is set to be used within two of the accounting firm’s proprietary offerings, the EY Blockchain Analyzer and the EY OpsChain. The former tool is focused around auditing and taxation services, while the latter helps enterprises tokenize their business operations.
And now, thanks to EY’s publishing of Nightfall to the public domain, anyone is free to modify the tool’s code as they please. In the coming years, many projects outside of EY’s direct purview may deploy renditions or extensions of Nightfall thanks to its status as being freely available and editable.
And Nightfall is likely just the start for EY, as the firm is poised to release more blockchain tools considering its growing position in the cryptoeconomy.
JP Morgan Releases Its Own Privacy Tool, Anonymous Zether
EY isn’t the only major company that’s recently released a cryptocurrency privacy solution.
Earlier this week, banking powerhouse JP Morgan open-sourced its Anonymous Zether tool, a modified in-house rendition of Zether, another ZKP privacy system that obfuscates transaction details for account-based smart contract blockchains, e.g. Ethereum and Stellar.
Zether itself first made waves back in February. JP Morgan’s Anonymous Zether extends the original by also allowing for transacting parties to conceal both their identities and their transaction details.
At their core, both Zether and Anonymous Zether leverage smart contract tech, specifically the Zether Smart Contract (ZSC). For example, users can deposit ether (ETH) into the ZSC in order to receive ZTH, a concealed version of the deposited ether.
It’s clear that with JP Morgan and EY entering the fray, support for upping public blockchains’ privacy now has some of the biggest mainstream backers possible. As major institutions, they know what major institutions want, need, and can get from blockchain tech, and they’re helping to lead the way toward actualizing those possibilities.
The grand question for now, then, is what will JP Morgan and EY do next?