Although Bitcoin has a reputation for being popular with criminals, transactions on Bitcoin and most other blockchains are not private. Anyone can audit the entire Bitcoin blockchain, accessing all transactions and wallet balances. Governments pay blockchain analytics firms to identify and track funds on Bitcoin, Ethereum, and dozens of other blockchains.
Privacy-focused blockchains offer investors the ability to perform transactions in a way that doesn't record data about the parties involved in the transaction or how much money was sent. Just as with public blockchains, non-crime uses for private blockchains are emerging, such as anonymized corporate data marketplaces.
Popular Privacy Blockchain Projects
Monero (XMR), $3.2B market cap
Monero is a decentralized, peer-to-peer "digital cash" project that operates like a "private Bitcoin." The proof-of-work blockchain is popular with crypto enthusiasts, having launched in 2014 with no VC funding and no XMR tokens pre-mined and saved for investors and developers.
Monero uses "stealth addresses," where a sender in a transaction uses a one-time address for every transaction. The protocol also employs "ring signatures," which makes the source of assets in a transaction untraceable. Monero splits transfers into smaller portions and treats each as its own transaction with its own address, further obscuring the size and parties involved in all Monero transactions.
Zcash (ZEC), $1.6B market cap
Zcash bills itself as a "private Bitcoin," but it transitioned to proof-of-stake in 2021. Zcash secures transactions using Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge (zk-SNARK) proofs. As Zcash explains, “Zero-knowledge” proofs allow one party (the prover) to prove to another (the verifier) that a statement is true, without revealing any information beyond the validity of the statement itself," meaning Zcash allows both parties in a transaction to send ZEC without revealing their addresses to each other. This process also obscures the amount of ZEC sent in a transaction.
Oasis (ROSE), $1.2B market cap
Oasis brings privacy to the modern crypto ecosystem. The proof-of-stake blockchain uses a "paratime" scaling architecture, similar to Polkadot's parachains. Projects built on Oasis use the Oasis blockchain for consensus and their own blockchains for handling transaction execution details, such as minting an NFT or a DeFi swap.
Oasis has seeded its DeFi and NFT ecosystem with a $200M fund, and its Ethereum-compatible Paratime, Emerald, is now live.
Oasis also offers a market for "data tokenization," where companies can anonymize and sell their data. Project participants include Binance's CryptoSafe Platform, Nebula Genomics, and a "Fortune 500 healthcare provider."
Iron Fish (IRON)
Iron Fish is a buzzy new "digital cash" proof-of-work blockchain that has raised $5.3M in funding. Iron Fish describes itself as "a privacy-first cryptocurrency that anyone can use, without compromising on privacy or usability." The project intends for miners to be able to run an entire node on a retail computer. Iron Fish secures transactions using zk-SNARK for privacy and the Sapling protocol.
The Iron Fish network is currently in testnet phase 1, and investors can earn IRON by mining the token or promoting the project on social media.