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Developer Envisions Bitcoin Dead Man’s Switch

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Dutch developer Joost Jager believes a dead man’s switch could be made for Bitcoin holders using the Lightning Network. When someone sets up the dead man’s switch they need to confirm that they are alive periodically. As soon as they are unable to do so, the system will send a message to those inheriting the holdings using the Bitcoin Lightning Network.

Jager showcased his idea at the Advancing Bitcoin event in London. Together with a group of developers he explored building a dead man’s switch using the Lightning Network as a messaging system. This secret message can be a code to a safe, a private key to a cryptocurrency wallet or just an explanation on where to find the information that’s needed.

A dead man’s switch isn’t new. Edward Snowden used one in case he would be dead before his information could reach journalists. Also John McAfee claims to have one set in place. Building one that works through the Lightning Network means that no third party is required to keep the information secret. It allows privacy for all involved as well.

If one doesn’t want to set up their own server to act as a Dead Men’s Button and use a third party instead, it is necessary to incentivize the third party. Lightning as a payment system can serve this goal. Other useful characteristics of Lightning are that it allows the sender to remain private and the attachment of custom data to a payment. 

Joost Jager, Github description

Joost Jager and Whatsat

Jager has been developing on the Lightning Network for some time now. Last year he released a concept for a messaging program named Whatsat, which allows for encrypted private messaging without any storage on centralized servers. In addition everything is routed through the TOR network.

Even though the current version of the Lightning Network allows such communication to be free, it’s unlikely it will stay like this. That’s why Jager created a paid version of Whatsat. Here people need to pay 0.3 satoshi per message, giving a small fee to the nodes carrying the data. At the current rate that would be $0.00003 per message. If someone would send 90 messages per day, the messaging app would cost 1 dollar per year.

What is the Lightning Network?

The Lightning Network is a second layer on top of the Bitcoin blockchain. In this case we are talking about the Bitcoin network, but technically the Lightning Network can run on top of any blockchain. It’s a payment protocol for fast transactions between participating nodes. Many developer believe the Lightning Network to be a solution for the scaling problems that Bitcoin is facing.

What the Lightning Network does, is creating a temporarily communication channel between two parties. Here these two parties can make as many transactions as they want. Only after closing the channel, the nodes can communicate the outcome of these transactions to the Bitcoin network. As a result a transaction on the Lightning Network only needs to cost a fraction of a cent.


Also published on Medium.

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