Worldcoin is a new project that aims to create a global identity and financial network using biometric data and cryptocurrency. However, the project has raised many concerns over its privacy and security practices, as well as its ethical implications.
What is Worldcoin and how does it work?
Worldcoin is the brainchild of Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, a prominent artificial intelligence research company. Altman, along with his co-founders Alexander Blania and Max Novendstern, launched Worldcoin in July 2023 in more than 20 countries.
The project’s vision is to give everyone a unique digital identity, called a World ID, that is based on their iris scan. The iris scan is done by a device called an orb, which is a spherical camera that captures an image of the colored part of the eye. The image is then processed by a neural network to generate a unique identifier that cannot be forged or duplicated.
Worldcoin claims that the World ID can be used for various online services, such as signing up for websites, verifying transactions, and accessing digital wallets. The project also plans to use the World ID to distribute cryptocurrency to its users, as a form of universal basic income.
To incentivize people to sign up for Worldcoin, the project offers free cryptocurrency to early adopters. The amount of cryptocurrency varies depending on the jurisdiction, but it is typically worth between $50 and $60. The cryptocurrency is called Worldcoin (WLD), and it is currently trading at around $1.90 per coin.
What are the concerns over Worldcoin?
Worldcoin has faced a lot of criticism and scrutiny since its launch, especially from privacy advocates and regulators. Some of the main concerns are:
- Data privacy and security: Worldcoin collects sensitive biometric data from its users, which could pose a risk of identity theft, fraud, or surveillance if it falls into the wrong hands. Worldcoin says that it encrypts and deletes the iris images after generating the World ID, and that it does not store any personal information about its users. However, some experts doubt the veracity and adequacy of these claims, and question how Worldcoin can ensure the security of its data across different countries and jurisdictions.
- Informed consent and transparency: Worldcoin has been accused of using deceptive marketing practices and failing to obtain meaningful informed consent from its users. Some reports have revealed that Worldcoin’s representatives did not disclose the full details and implications of the project to potential users, and that some users did not understand what they were signing up for. Moreover, some users did not know that their data was being used to train artificial intelligence models, which could have unknown consequences for their privacy and rights.
- Ethical and social implications: Worldcoin has been criticized for exploiting vulnerable populations in developing countries, where people may be more willing to trade their biometric data for cash. Some critics argue that Worldcoin is creating a digital divide between those who have access to cryptocurrency and those who do not, and that it is undermining the sovereignty and dignity of its users. Furthermore, some critics question the legitimacy and sustainability of Worldcoin’s cryptocurrency distribution model, and whether it can actually achieve its goal of reducing global inequality.
What is the current status of Worldcoin?
Worldcoin is currently facing investigations from regulators in at least four countries: Kenya, Germany, Argentina, and Spain. These investigations are looking into whether Worldcoin has violated any data protection laws or consumer rights in these countries.
In Kenya, where Worldcoin had attracted thousands of users in Nairobi, the government has suspended the project indefinitely and ordered its representatives not to leave the country. The government has also warned the public against participating in Worldcoin or any similar schemes.
In Germany, where Worldcoin had set up registration points in Berlin and Hamburg, the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) has launched a probe into whether Worldcoin has complied with the country’s anti-money laundering and banking regulations.
In Argentina, where Worldcoin had operated in Buenos Aires and Cordoba, the National Directorate for Personal Data Protection (DNPDP) has initiated an investigation into whether Worldcoin has respected the privacy rights of its users.
In Spain, where Worldcoin had registered users in Barcelona and Madrid, the Spanish Agency for Data Protection (AEPD) has opened an inquiry into whether Worldcoin has followed the data protection rules of the European Union.
Worldcoin has said that it is cooperating with all the authorities and that it is committed to complying with all the relevant laws and regulations in each country. The project has also said that it is working on improving its transparency and communication with its users and stakeholders.