Builders of the Decentralized Web: Episode #1 | Privacy, Politics & Proxy Re-Encryption

Featuring Justin Myles Holmes, Senior Engineer & Chief Chocobo Breeder @ NuCypher

We’re excited to release the first episode of the NuCypher Interview Series: Builders of the decentralized web (BotDW). In this series, we talk to the developers, thinkers and innovators working on the decentralized web’s foundational infrastructure — from data storage to data portability, information security to information processing, tangible hardware to abstract protocol.

Episode #1 features Justin Myles Holmes, a key member of NuCypher’s engineering team, and self-described ‘Chocobo Breeder’. We cover a number of interesting topics, including the fundamental idea of privacy and how politics, technology and change intertwine. Justin also provides a fresh perspective on what proxy re-encryption and the NuCypher KMS brings to the decentralized world.

Terminology Guide 
A quick reference for some of the unexplained terms that cropped up during the conversation.

  • Ursula”. An extension to the classic Alice & Bob cryptographic narrative, Ursula represents the proxy in NuCypher’s proxy re-encryption scheme, as well as each node in the NuCypher KMS network. She executes access control policies on behalf of KMS users, and is compensated in network fees. We mention Ursula on various occasions to describe the dynamics between the data owner, recipient and proxy.
  • Capsule”. This is a metaphor for an important tool Bob (the data recipient) utilizes to access the message shared with him by Alice, and also a literal function within the pyUmbral (threshold split-key re-encryption) scheme. For more detail, please refer to the pyUmbral library on GitHub.
  • Medallions”. Traditionally, a taxi medallion is a purchasable license held by cab drivers in US cities. We used this term as an analogy for the crypto-economic requirements fulfilled by a node in the NuCypher KMS network; specifically, that they stake a minimum quantity of tokens in order to receive work, fees or inflation revenue.
  • Dataism/dataist”. As defined by Yuval Noah Harari, ‘Dataism’ is an emergent ideology that places the flow of information above everything else — in other words, . This term was referenced as an example of a mindset that would potentially object to the proliferation of access control schemes like NuCypher.