Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin calls for privacy and decentralization

Ethereum (ETH) co-founder Vitalik Buterin believes that privacy and decentralization should be key priorities for the blockchain network going forward.

Buterin cautioned that centralized entities like custodial exchanges are “vulnerable” and can be corrupted. Users should be able to transact directly on the Ethereum blockchain, he argues.

Here’s what the 29-year-old entrepreneur told CNBC at a recent crypto developer conference in Prague:

We need the experience on-chain to actually be good for regular people to use. […] We need it to actually be possible to do Ethereum payments in a way where the transaction fee is less than five cents.

Vitalik Buterin — Ethereum co-founder

Buterin believes Ethereum can realize its greatest utility in emerging economies by enabling payments, savings and access to the global economy. He said crypto adoption is already spreading in countries like Argentina.

I literally got recognized on the streets of Buenos Aires more often than I got recognized in San Francisco.

Vitalik Buterin — Ethereum co-founder

However, he warned that centralized actors like Binance still dominate crypto usage in many developing nations. Buterin said Ethereum must become more decentralized and secure for regular users.

People need to have wallets that are actually secure, where if they lose the keys, they’re not going to lose everything.

Vitalik Buterin — Ethereum co-founder

Buterin also advocated for more privacy technology such as zero-knowledge proof implementations. He argued that Ethereum’s move to proof-of-stake consensus makes it “easier to anonymize.”

Proof-of-stake is actually easier to anonymize and harder to shut down than proof-of-work is. […] Proof-of-work requires huge amounts of physical equipment and requires huge amounts of electricity. These are exactly the kinds of things that drug enforcement agencies have decades of experience detecting.

Vitalik Buterin — Ethereum co-founder

He dismissed concerns about his own prominent role in Ethereum, noting that the network is now self-governing, with several independent organizations contributing. Buterin said his goal has always been for the Ethereum Foundation to foster independent ecosystems. Buterin said there are “diverging interests” between governments who want to crack down on crypto and developers who want to build with strong encryption.

The ecosystem does need to find a way to fight hard for the right to continue to build things with the kinds of privacy that we’ve been used to for thousands of years.

Vitalik Buterin — Ethereum co-founder

Even mainstream countries are growing more concerned for privacy technology developers, Buterin warns, citing the charges against Tornado Cash developers by the U.S. and Netherlands as an example.

Tornado Cash is an Ethereum mixing service used to enhance privacy. But law enforcement has targeted Tornado Cash developers rather than just bad actors misusing the tool.

Buterin argued this sets a dangerous precedent. He said crypto developers should have the right to build privacy-focused products without fear of prosecution.

According to Buterin, privacy is essential for realizing the decentralization and censorship resistance that are foundational to blockchain networks like Ethereum. He contends that users should be able to transact peer-to-peer without relying on or being blocked by centralized intermediaries.

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