Worldcoin faces global scrutiny over privacy concerns

Worldcoin, described by its creators as an innovative and privacy-focused technology, is facing global scrutiny as regulatory authorities express concerns regarding the company’s handling of personal and biometric data.

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, is one of the co-founders of Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency venture that includes a token and a “World ID” designed to function as a digital passport.

The project’s primary goal is to differentiate between humans and AI and ultimately establish an AI-funded universal basic income, as explained in a public letter by Altman and co-founder Alex Blania.

However, there are obstacles on the regulatory front. In the United States, for instance, citizens and residents are prohibited from purchasing or trading Worldcoin (WLD) tokens.

In Europe, German data regulators have been monitoring the project since November 2022, as per reports. In France, shortly after the launch of Worldcoin, officials raised concerns about the legality of collecting biometric data.

Reports indicate that police conducted a raid on Worldcoin’s warehouse in Nairobi, Kenya, earlier this month. This action followed an announcement by Blania, made via the platform X (formerly known as Twitter), that the company had temporarily halted World ID verifications in the country.

“World ID is built for privacy,” Blania states. “We look forward to resuming operations while continuing global rollout.”

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Worldcoin has been in communication with the Kenyan Office of Data Protection since April 2022, as reported by individuals with knowledge of the situation. In a recent letter sent to this office, Worldcoin explicitly stated that they will never engage in the sale of users’ personal or biometric data, as confirmed by a copy of the letter reviewed by Blockworks.

“Operator Partners do not access or process people’s personal or biometric data when conducting Orb signups,” the letter added. “They are akin to marketing agents.”

People globally have the opportunity to undergo “Orb scans” of their iris as a means of verifying their human identity. Those who undergo an iris scan must provide their consent for biometric data collection.

The consent form offers three choices: disagree (resulting in no scan completion), agree to the Orb scan while opting out of data custody (meaning image data won’t be transferred or stored), and agree to the Orb scan with data custody.

Those who select the third option consent to the storage and transmission of their data to teams located in both the European Union and the United States.

“The project will continue to cooperate with governing bodies on requests for more information about its privacy and data protection practices,” Blockworks was informed by the Worldcoin Foundation.

“We are committed to working with our partners globally to ensure that the Worldcoin project meets regulatory requirements and provides a safe, secure, and transparent service for verified humans.”