Russian opposition activist launches zero-knowledge voting app to challenge Putin’s inauguration

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Russian opposition activist and former Pussy Riot lawyer Mark Feygin has launched a referendum on the zero-knowledge voting app Russia2024, challenging the legitimacy of the recent Russian elections and Vladimir Putin’s inauguration as president.

The vote, which went live on May 10th, three days after Putin’s inauguration, is the first protest vote on the app following months of audits and stress tests.

Russia2024 was built using Rarimo’s Freedom Tool, an open-source, surveillance-free voting solution that leverages blockchain and zero-knowledge cryptography to ensure citizens can poll, vote, and protest without being tracked. The app was first announced in a broadcast on March 9, 2024.

Following the announcement, the Kremlin attempted to obstruct the app by filing against it, temporarily removing it from the Apple store, and sponsoring negative reviews, a strategy exposed by a whistleblower who expressed support for the app.

“Dissent in Russia is growing more risky and public opinion harder to track. It is critical that we provide reliable, surveillance-proof avenues for protest and polling. Russia2024 and its underlying technology has enabled that,” Feygin said in a press release shared with Crypto Briefing.

The app was developed by Kyiv-based Rarilabs, with key contributions from activist developers working anonymously inside regimes around the world. Rarilabs is a privacy-first social protocol backed by Pantera Capital. In 2022, the company raised $10 million at a $100 million valuation for its Series A funding round.

According to the project’s whitepaper, the app uses Russia’s machine-readable passport information submitted by a user.

The data is then decrypted and verified locally (on a device). Digital identity, once authenticated, is resolved using a generated keypair, which is then used to interact with the app’s smart contract. The image below illustrates how the app works.

Zero-knowledge cryptography severs the link between the pass and passport data, and votes are published directly on Arbitrum, an Ethereum L2, where the data then becomes tamper-proof.

“Freedom Tool was built to help give a voice to people living in regimes. Its implementation in Russia is an early example of how blockchain and zero-knowledge cryptography can meet the urgent need around the world for privacy technology,” said Lasha Antadze, co-founder of Rarilabs.

Antadze previously worked on the Ukrainian government’s e-identity and digitalization reform, as well as the EU’s Stork 2.0 digital signature standardization.

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