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In this episode of The Van Wirdum Sjorsnado, Aaron and Sjors discuss Open Timestamps, a Bitcoin-based time stamping project from applied cryptography consultant and former Bitcoin Core contributor Peter Todd. Open Timestamps leverages the security of the Bitcoin blockchain to timestamp any type of data, allowing for irrefutable proof that that data existed at a particular point in time.
Aaron and Sjors explain that virtually any amount of data can, in fact, be timestamped in the Bitcoin blockchain at minimal cost because Open Timestamps leverages Merkle trees, the cryptographic trick to aggregate data into a single, compact hash. This hash is then included in a Bitcoin transaction, making all of the data aggregated into the hash as immutable as any other Bitcoin transaction.
Todd offered an interesting showcase of Open Timestamps earlier this week, as he proved that the public key used by Google to sign “the email” to Hunter Biden indeed existed in 2016.
Aaron and Sjors also discuss some of the other possibilities that a time-stamping system like Open Timestamps offers, as well as its limitations. Finally, Aaron provides a little bit of context for the history of cryptographic time stamping, which was itself referenced in the Bitcoin white paper.