Zero Knowledge Systems

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Zero Knowledge Systems
IndustryPrivacy Technology
HeadquartersMontreal, Quebec, Canada
Key people
Austin Hill (CEO) and Hamnett Hill (COO)
ProductsFreedom network
freedom pseudonymous mail system
Number of employees

Zero-Knowledge Systems (also known as ZKS) was a Canadian privacy technology software and services company, best known for the Freedom Network, its privacy network. It was founded by brothers Austin Hill & Hamnett Hill and their father Hamnett Hill Sr. (aka Hammie Hill) in 1997. Its headquarters were in Montreal, Quebec. Early investors and board members were Mike Santer and Alex Hern co-founder Inktomi. The company still exists under the new name Radialpoint though is no longer a developer of privacy-enhancing technologies.[1]

Zero-Knowledge Systems was one of the first large scale commercial attempts to combine cypherpunk principles with a for-profit technology. During its heyday ZKS captured the media's imagination and successfully drew attention to the privacy risks of unsuspecting internet users.

Being based in Canada allowed it to circumvent US ban on strong cryptography, considered "munitions" at the time. ZKS was featured in Wired magazine as early as 1999 [2]

The ZKS Freedom Network was a pioneer of anonymous networking technology, predating the Tor network. Some of the enterprise privacy research was also inherited by the IBM Tivoli digital rights management suite.[3]

Several of the company's employees were from an academic privacy-enhanced technology background: Dr Stefan Brands (senior cryptographer) and cypherpunk background Dr Ian Goldberg (chief scientist) and Dr Adam Back (architect & cryptographer). Other employees included Mike Shaver (chief software officer), Adam Shostack, Anton Stiglic, Jonathan Wilkins and Ulf Moller.[4] Stephanie Perrin served as Chief Privacy Officer for the firm before she became Director of Research and Policy at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and helped to draft PIPEDA, the Canadian privacy law.[5]