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UK data watchdog eyes iris-scanning crypto Worldcoin

Worldcoin ICO
Image credit: Worldcoin

Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman that uses eye-scanning orbs for biometric verification, will be investigated by the UK’s data watchdog.

Altman, Alex Blania and Max Novendstern co-founded Tools For Humanity, the company behind Worldcoin. This week the company invited members of the public to have their eyeballs scanned in exchange for sums of the cryptocurrency in London.

An ICO spokesperson said: “Organisations also need to have a clear lawful basis to process personal data. Where they are relying on consent, this needs to be freely given and capable of being withdrawn without detriment.We note the launch of WorldCoin in the UK and will be making enquiries.”

Tools For Humanity revealed this week it is shipping 1,500 of its eye-scanning Worldcoin orbs around the world this summer.

UK data watchdog eyes iris scanning crypto Worldcoin

Worldcoin ICO
Image credit: Worldcoin


Eye-see-oh warning

But the technology is viewed by some as dystopian and fraught with privacy concerns.

“Organisations must conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) before starting any processing that is likely to result in high risk, such as processing special category biometric data,” added the ICO spokesperson. “Where they identify high risks that they cannot mitigate, they must consult the ICO.”

The orbs are used to verify people physically and when proven not to be an AI are given an “Anonymous Proof of Personhood” World ID, which can be used as a sign-in method to applications and send cryptocurrency.

More than two million people have signed up to have their eyes scanned by Worldcoin’s orbs around the world in cities including London at Techspace Worship Street.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has expressed concerns with the project’s privacy, accessibility, centralisation and security.

“Users’ phones could be hacked, users could be coerced into scanning their irises while showing a public key that belongs to someone else, and there is the possibility of 3D-printing “fake people” that can pass the iris scan and get World IDs,” said Buterin via a blog post.

ICO last month issued a privacy risk warning on generative AI, the technology underpinning OpenAI’s hugely popular ChatGPT.