Protocol Labs Research
2022-06-30 / Blog
New open problems in private data retrieval

tl;dr: We’d like to develop additional protocol-compatible primitives allowing users to interact privately with Web3 content.

Central to the Web3 vision of an open, permissionless, and decentralized internet is the ability of parties to interact directly and privately with each other while retaining ownership of their data.

We believe that the creation of more viable mechanisms for private communications, as part of a focused research effort on privacy-preserving communication, will lead to better options for reader private access to the content stored in the interplanetary network and content-addressed-data more broadly.

Right now, the strongest privacy guarantees for accessing content stored on IPFS or Filecoin come through a gateway: only the gateway learns the data requestor’s IP address, but the entire network can observe several aspects of metadata associated with the request.

We’d like to implement trustless and intermediary-free access to Web3 data where communication is low latency and reader-private, but we are not aware of a present system design that meets all of these criteria.

So we’re posting an Open Problem to stimulate research and development of interactive private communication mechanisms – you can read the full details in the open problem statement posted in the public PL research GitHub repo. While we haven’t found a full solution yet, the open problem statement cites some of the exciting research in this area that we believe will be a useful touchpoint in creating novel designs.

One welcome response to an Open Problem Statement is a better-formulated problem: if you have ideas about how to clarify or refactor the problem or would like to suggest additional designs or projects in the space that we should investigate, please join the discussion.

We plan to develop this open problem into an RFP and are excited to sponsor research projects within its scope – stay tuned for more details!

Network Goods
Do you want to be part of the conversation? Join us on our Discord (invite link), and follow the PL Research Twitter @Protoresearch. Active researchers may also be interested in our open RFPs and other funding opportunities.