Shielded dialogues: media and advocacy for private transactions

Description of Problem or Opportunity

Problem/opportunity: Privacy-preserving cryptocurrencies and the ecosystem that they enable may experience a significant crackdown by the US treasury soon. This is happening as China is rolling out its surveillance-friendly central bank digital currency, potentially making its use a condition for economic agreements with weaker international economic partners.

How serious or urgent of a need: Given US regulatory speed, a crackdown on private coins that is “soon” may mean 2-5 years but by then we need a strong global public awareness that privacy is crucial for US and global consumers. The Chinese surveillance-friendly digital currency expansion will likely be faster.

What evidence do you have: Recent US House of representatives hearings that were suggestive of limiting actions on cryptocurrencies China is continuing to push its digital yuan pilots: Where Does China’s Digital Currency Stand? – The Diplomat

Proposed Solution

Describe the solution at a high level: keynote seminars turned into podcast that establishes public awareness that the ability to cooperate privately is central to human freedom and crucial to enable a variety of communities to live flourishing lives. This aligns with the “media, narrative, and policy advocacy” stakeholder segment on the ZOMG whitepaper (zomg/ZOMG_whitepaper_v1.0_published.pdf at master · ZcashFoundation/zomg · GitHub)

Please be specific about who the users and stakeholders are and how they would interact with your solution: stakeholders who stand to benefit: US and global consumers at large, DeFi, and privacy-preserving currencies in particular.

Solution Format

What is the exact form of the deliverable you’re creating? interviews with top privacy/ human rights activists, regulators, DeFi projects, consumers, and more on why shielded transactions should be a crucial part of our lives, and what we risk by giving them up. Topics we may cover include:

Why the global public should care: Global human rights activism that benefits from shielded transactions

Why the US govt should care: How non-shielded transactions lead to national security concerns vis a vis exploitation of US by external attackers

Why consumers should care: How future mass traffic analysis can lead to physical extortability of anyone who ever transacted using public blockchains

Why entrepreneurs should care: How public blockchains can enable anti-competitive behavior, e.g. by allowing the next Amazon to analyze the world’s transactions in detail to clobber rising products

Why DeFi should care: Major losses in DeFi due to bots doing traffic analysis of major public transactions on exchanges to frontrun them

Why the crypto ecosystem should care: Previously impossible cooperative arrangements enabled by zk, e.g. how recursive HALO zk proofs could enable scalable DEXs

Technical approach

Keynote seminars will be virtual, allowing high global live attendance and easy editing as a well-produced podcast

How big of a problem would it be to not solve this problem?

Anyone who is currently operating on public blockchains will be vulnerable to future traffic analysis getting better via ML techniques and may thus become a victim of physical coercion.

Execution risks

The public may end up not caring about their ability to transact freely despite strong reasons and narrative to the contrary.

Unintended Consequences Downsides

Shielded transactions, in general, may have unintended consequences, e.g. by enabling entities to centralize power in unobservable ways.

Evaluation plan

  • mainstream media referencing podcast
  • public opinion polls on privacy and private cryptocurrencies improving
  • charities and dissidents accepting Zcash
  • Every podcast episode will be followed by an action item, running a Zcash node, installing a private wallet, donating to a charity using Zcash etc. Some of these may even be trackable via zk-proofs, which would be a fun meta-way to validate success.

Schedule and Milestones

  • 1-year prototype, monthly release of keynote podcast. Youtube listenership target of ~20% monthly viewership growth via cross-promotions with interviewee organizations, strong global PR

Budget and Payout Timeline

  • Target: $70,000USD: $15k for editing and production, $15k for PR, $40k for podcast interviewer. Can be paid out in two installments in Q1 and Q3 of 2022 if monthly 20% viewership growth milestones are delivered.

Applicant background

I run a science and tech non-profit that has a monthly keynote podcast series with +10k technology-oriented subscribers on Youtube, and up to 80k views per video, and a strong existing network with the proposed interviewees


I’m in full support of the Shielded Dialogs initiative and glad to have someone interested to pursue the educational angle. Here are some of my questions relating to the approach:

  1. Have you considered who to interview? I would highly recommend including @balajis & @secparam
  2. Would you be interested in including an estimate for a video production? And possibly working towards getting the video series published on a larger platform like Amazon Prime Video?

Wish the series convinces the viewer otherwise!

Thank you, @aiyadt .

1.We have a shortlist of 20 potential interviewees. I did not want to share them because they are neither confirmed nor invited but we have interviewed Balajis in our existing series before (and would to do so again) and would absolutely love to interview Ian Miers, too.

  1. That’s a great idea. I tried to keep the proposal as MVP as possible to make it work on a tight budget but those platforms have a larger multiplier effect. Based on, professional production costs for in-person for 10 days of shooting (i.e. 10 keynote interviews) would be around $60k. Travel expenses could be kept as low as an additional $5k. With the existing PR ($15k) and interviewer ($40k) budget, this would make $120k on a rough MVP budget. That said, it would probably be necessary to ramp up but PR and interviewer budget to get the quality required for a successful Prime series. Would love your feedback!