The global data privacy landscape has been in a state of calibration lately, with enterprises being pressured by consumers and tightening regulatory constraints. The rollout of the California Consumer Protection Act at the beginning of this year represents another major adjustment to the data privacy space, following the introduction of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation in 2018.

These moves have redefined how companies handle and manage user data, forcing enterprises to protect consumer privacy at all costs, treating personal information with about as same care as credit card numbers. Critically, this “compliance era” confronting enterprises is not a passing trend, but a paradigm shift that will endure. Companies must step up and rejuvenate their data management practices, taking advantage of the latest technological advances in order to uphold regulatory compliance, safeguard corporate reputation and ultimately to remain competitive. 

Data privacy regulation around the world has started changing how enterprises handle data

Thankfully, in parallel to this regulatory shake-up, there has been sustained momentum behind the pursuit of Privacy-Enhancing Technology (PET) innovations – with up to $55 billion expected to be spent on compliance-strengthening measures in California alone. In particular, 2019 was a breakout year for zero-knowledge proof (ZKP) cryptography. At a micro level, ZKPs allow one party (the prover) to prove to another party (the verifier) the validity of a statement that has been mathematically derived from sensitive information, without revealing any underlying data to the verifier.

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While highly intricate, ZKPs can be tailored for easy deployment across a variety of business needs, and PET solutions such as these can help enterprises seamlessly transition into the compliance era. The list of associated use cases is growing, and industries such as identity and accreditation management, insurance and supply chain management are already benefiting from innovations in ZKP cryptography today.

The emergence of ZKPs in 2019 was defined by high-profile deployments from industry giants such as Deloitte, Samsung SDS and EY, as well as continued growth within the ZKProof.org community. ZKProof.org is an open-industry academic initiative that brings together the world’s top researchers, developers and practitioners to promote best-practice standards for ZKP schemes.

The community-based organization serves as a forum for high-level discussion and review of ZKP solutions, geared towards broader industry adoption of the technology. Why should businesses care? The message is clear, ZKP cryptography can enable mutually beneficial collaboration between competitors without compromising the privacy of sensitive business information – unlocking new revenue streams and efficiency gains.

Zero-knowledge proof cryptography can be combined with blockchain to address privacy concerns

ZKP cryptography can provide a privacy layer that facilitates blockchain usage among enterprises by addressing the data confidentiality dilemma that, until now, has hindered adoption. For example, with an added privacy layer, a supply chain consortium can deploy blockchain technology to track assets along a supply route, without displaying sensitive transactional details that reveal confidential information pertaining to trading partners, sales volume, or pricing. This is just one example of how ZKPs can be the next great enabler of innovation within the evolving blockchain ecosystem.

See related article: Privacy doesn’t equal anonymity on blockchain, says Concordium CEO

The enterprise blockchain space can shift into full gear with a trusted ZKP privacy layer on top of digital ledger technology, protecting sensitive transaction details on a blockchain. QEDIT uses zero-knowledge proofs to provide an enterprise solution for data privacy. QEDIT being recognized as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum last year renewed our ambition to help broadcast this message far and wide, ensuring it reaches the boardrooms and minds of key decision-makers within the enterprise community.

I anticipate that the promise of widening revenue streams will be an enticing proposition, and I expect this appetite for new-found growth will power continued exploration of ZKP solutions in 2020 and beyond. I firmly expect to see further deployments of ZKP cryptography at the highest levels of industry, directed in part by the ZKP pursuits of major players across a spectrum of industries.

I’ve long believed in the potential of PET solutions to alleviate many of the challenges confronting enterprises from a regulatory, security, and competitive perspective. I look forward to watching this vision crystallize in 2020.

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