An Ethereum core developer has expressed his concerns regarding potential leaking of user data through the Ethereum network. Peter Szilagyi thinks metadata could potentially provide an accurate and worldwide map of the locations of all ethereum users. In an interview with Coindesk Szilagyi particularly mentioned light clients and Etherscan has sources of harm.
“When people are transitioning away from full nodes they are giving up certain guarantees and I just want to highlight what potential issues might arise,” Szilagyi said to Coindesk. He does believe the problems can be solved, but doesn’t want to provide too much detail with the potential risk of someone abusing the leak.
He did mention Etherscan. This website connects and Ethereum address to an IP-address, which can already be potentially harmful. The IP-address is basically the user’s location data. To make things worse, on Etherscan there’s a comment system run by Disqus. This social media platform shares data with its partners.
This could mean that the connection between the IP-address and Ethereum address is revealed to other social media platforms. Of course you login there as well, and therefore an Ethereum address can be connected to your personal profile.
Etherscan is not the only platform that could potentially leak this type of location information. Szilagyi also mentioned tools like Metamask, Infura and MyCryptoWallet. But also the Ethereum light client is a risky business.
When the light client connects to the network, it shares it’s IP address. Light clients continuously connect all the time, and therefore can show when a user is moving. Location data is public domain, and therefore someone could potentially create a worldwide map of all users running the Ethereum light client or those who connect to services like Etherscan and MetaMask.
This is not a problem of Ethereum alone, but one of the crypto and the internet in general. As a crypto investor you should be running full nodes on your computer, to make sure all data is locally stored and in your own hands. On top of that, using anonymous browsers like Brave and connecting through the Tor Network can make your internet usage anonymous.