ING Bank, a Dutch multinational financial services corporation, is reportedly planning to further explore the privacy features currently available with blockchain-based systems. The Amsterdam-based financial institution also announced the launch of its Zero-Knowledge Set Membership (ZKSM) solution at the Sibos banking conference.

Zero-Knowledge Proofs

ING bank had already been utilizing a simplified form of the standard zero-knowledge proofs, which allow users to prove that they’re in “possession of certain information … without revealing that information, and without any interaction between the prover and verifier.”

What makes zero-knowledge proofs useful is that they are able to verify the accuracy of important data sets such as proving a number falls within a particular range – without having to disclose the actual number.

This type of verification process may be used to determine whether an employee’s salary falls within a certain range, but not revealing their exact salary. A company, or any other entity, might want to know approximately how much a person is earning so they can decide if they should offer them certain services such as financing their mortgage.

Only Sharing Information That’s Absolutely Necessary

In addition to protecting users’ privacy by only sharing information about them that’s absolutely necessary, blockchain-based zero-knowledge proofs are generally computationally lighter compared to traditional data verification methods.

ING bank, which focuses primarily on providing direct, retail, commercial, and investment banking services, is now looking to utilize ZKSM to validate that alphanumeric data (combination of letters, numbers, and symbols) belongs to a specified set.

This type of validation is required when determining the accuracy of more complex data sets such as information used to calculate geographic positioning and proving dimensions. ING bank may require this because in cases when a customer needs to clear a know-your-customer (KYC) check, their private details (such as they’re an EU citizen) may be validated without them revealing their country of residence.

Notably, ING’s cryptography-based zero-knowledge proof research and product development is open-source, meaning its source code can be viewed by others. The large financial institution has also had its research work peer-reviewed by academics.

Improving User Privacy, Security With Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)

Dr. Madars Virza, a research assistant at MIT and one of the co-founders of privacy coin Zcash, has also reviewed ING’s contributions to the ongoing development of zero-knowledge proofs.

Meanwhile, Annerie Vreugdenhil, the chief innovation officer of wholesale banking at ING, noted that the bank’s open-source distributed ledger technology (DLT) based ZKSM project will be instrumental in initiating a community-led effort focused on improving users’ privacy and sensitive data. 

Vreugdenhil remarked:

At ING, we are fortunate to have some of the best minds in the industry working on our programme. And we are excited that our groundbreaking solution is now ready to be implemented and tested.

Annerie Vreugdenhil