In the buzzing world of web3, where decentralized dreams spark vivid imaginations, I found myself standing amidst an unsettling reality – a place where every click, every transaction, whispered tales of my digital wanderings to unseen watchers. The digital fortress I thought I inhabited was, in reality, a house of transparent glass, revealing more than I could ever intend. This isn’t a new feeling; it has always been this way, but to some degree, you would hope Web3 would make good on its promise to bring data autonomy to the masses.
Luckily, there seems to finally be some light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the attention the privacy issues in Web3 have received this year, which seems to have given birth to privacy-preserving products such as RPCh.
Web3: A Data Harvesting Nightmare
We all know in the back of our minds that we’re being tracked online, but nothing made my Web3 experience gloomier than stumbling on DERP, a tool that made exactly how much my wallet was exposing about me crystal clear.
My IP address, device information, and web3 interactions were laid bare, forming a detailed mosaic of my digital life, accessible to every node my wallet communicated with.
The problem wasn’t isolated to mere exposure; it was amplified by the exposure being accessible to monolithic RPC providers like Infura and Alchemy, silently observing, storing, and potentially analyzing every user’s actions on web3.
Although I’ve been through this rabbit hole many times, masochistically diving deeper into how violated my personal information is, it was actually by re-visiting DERP again recently that I discovered RPCh – a somewhat promising new bit of middleware.
It is, or at least should be, common knowledge that VPNs are essentially useless in preserving your privacy, but RPCh is built on the HOPR mixnet – a transport layer privacy protocol which, in essence, routes, mixes and anonymizes your data similar to a high-powered, super-private version of Tor.
This mixnet is then leveraged by RPCh, which sits in between your wallet and the nodes it communicates with, completely anonymizing you by routing every individual request through a new route on the mixnet.
Think of a VPN that changes its IP address ten times a second, takes multiple precautions to obscure all data moving through it and has built-in MEV protection.
I stumbled across RPCh thanks to their ongoing promotion for their Beta release. It seems, at least for the time being, that RPCh will remain a free service for the next six months for all users registered before 31/10/2023.
To use RPCh currently, you have to sign up with the promo code: FREEPRIVACY, run a docker command, and then add a new custom RPC endpoint to your wallet. All of this is documented quite well within their documentation, with a quick video demo available on Twitter.
Performance & Impressions
It is easy to use once set up. You just switch to using it as your network within your wallet UI.
It seems to work well, from reading where my requests are pointed to and a little bit of investigation running RPCh against an exposed RPC, the metadata exposed varies massively and doesn’t expose any data linked to me at first glance.
It is also highly performant, I haven’t noticed a difference in using it as middleware for any of my Web3 browsing, transactions or general activities. Which is surprising given that it relies on a mixnet, which adds latency to provide privacy.
Although my investigations are ongoing, the concept is 10/10, and the software seems to live up to what it promises; best of all, it is still free for the time being.
Data Autonomy in Web3
In a world where your every digital step is extracted for value, the importance of technology like this can’t be understated. Although it took a long time for privacy to see the limelight, we finally seem to be seeing meaningfully private products hitting the market.