Proof of keys is a practical and philosophical movement focused on the removal of assets from centralized exchanges to empower individual users. Its characteristics mirror those of a bank run, in which massive amounts of people quickly withdraw funds from banks due to concerns over their solvency. However, while bank runs are typically unplanned and reactive (in response to changing economic conditions), the proof of keys movement is generally organized and advocates for preemptive action according to a set of guiding principles.
The movement seeks to expose and dismantle certain centralized exchanges it feels are operating as fractional-reserve banks. The main sentiment driving the movement is that, if one does not control the private keys to one’s wallet, one does not truly own the assets in that wallet. Thus, as centralized exchanges do manage private keys on behalf of the user, any assets in these exchanges are effectively owned by the exchanges themselves. Proof of keys proponents advocate for the migration of assets to hardware wallets (wherein private keys are fully controlled by the individual user), as well as the adoption of full nodes by these users to give the user access to the complete blockchain and strengthen the decentralized properties of the overall network.
The movement is spearheaded by prominent cryptoasset investor, Trace Mayer, and has garnered support from key industry players such as Nick Szabo and Caitlin Long.