Opinions

A Level Above Tor, How Binance-Backed HOPR Project Mixnet Secures Metadata

Andrey Sergeenkov
Andrey Sergeenkov

Data is the new oil, and corporations want to control it.

Distributed ledger technologies (DLT), comprising community-led blockchain and blockless solutions, can patch the privacy hole baked into the fabric of the internet.

The Metadata Weakness

The objective of privacy-focused blockchain firms is to unleash a robust solution that addresses the fragility in the current internet's architecture: metadata.

To fully understand why it is vital to protect metadata, one must first grasp its role in the traditional web2 architecture where publishers, not content creators, are in control.

Every packet of data transmitted on the internet must be directed to a destination. This is where metadata comes in, acting like internet envelopes.

Metadata captures data about other data. That is, it contains the descriptive data of a particular data set. For example, a social media user's metadata can include details about their location, age, gender, and other intrusive information.

Governments and data harvesting corporations can, in the present setup, use these descriptive metadata troves to, therefore, violate privacy. Often, this is without users' express permission, since metadata is often publicly exposed.

Introducing HOPR

The HOPR project aims to give people an alternative to quickly and cheaply protect their metadata. It has received funding from, among other known investors, Binance.

Its objective is not only to hide by encrypting descriptive data but also to protect the identity of the receiver and sender through their message layer.

The protocol provides the elementary foundation needed for the internet's future where metadata remains anonymous without the possibility of illegal extraction, enabling profiling.

A Network-Level Privacy Network

Considering how sensitive and specific metadata are, how best to protect them remains a contentious subject among privacy advocates who regularly clash with corporations.

Those corporations, and even governments, can capture metadata details comprising user full names, the frequency of access, time, and more means there should be a robust way of protecting ordinary internet users against unwarranted intrusion.

The network-level privacy offered by HOPR allows anyone, regardless of stature, to use the internet securely and safely without fear of being tracked.

HOPR maintains that the internet is for the public good. Sebastian Bürgel, the co-founder, is clear that HOPR is not a dedicated blockchain.

Instead, their protocol is a base-layer on top of which creators can build other blockchains or dApps.

HOPR has built an open-source incentivized mixnet where people can run privacy nodes to protect users' metadata while receiving tokens for their work.

HOPR Metadata Protection Techniques

Crucially, the project makes it easier for those without technical backgrounds to participate, explaining their growing community. Before the mainnet launch, there were over 20’000 participants in their 11 multilingual Telegram channels.

To participate in powering the base layer, users can either purchase a plug-and-play hardware node by AVADO or download and install HOPR's easy-to-use node software.

Through HOPR nodes, metadata is hopped and mixed through multiple nodes on the message layer. By moving internet data packages through various nodes, the protocol effectively hides trails that would otherwise be tracked.

For this, the HOPR project is called a mixnet. It is the first that incentivizes the protection of metadata in that regard. Also, this is the main differentiator from Tor which, albeit being open-source, doesn’t reward volunteers.

The HOPR Association and Token

The HOPR protocol is decentralized, peer-to-peer, and managed by the community.

Their native currency, HOPR, keeps the network from third-party influence. It is also useful as a means of payment and a revenue opportunity for users who want to run HOPR privacy nodes.

Enabling this is the HOPR payment layer.

Token holders can also vote through the HOPR Association. It is a new form of Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) called DecenGov—an acronym for Decentralized Community-Enabling Governance, that will eventually give control to network users.

However, the HOPR Association is different from the Genesis DAO that is purposely used to only distribute 85 million HOPR tokens during the Jungfrau release on Feb 24.

Through the HOPR Association, token holders can determine network fees, elect members of the board, and critically allocate funds.

The Public Launch Allocation won't be a token sale or an airdrop but a way of incentivizing members who participated in the HOPR incentivized testnets.