Worldcoin Crypto Initiative Faces Scrutiny from Regulators in Multiple Jurisdictions

Growing International Scrutiny for Worldcoin’s Data Collection Process

The services provided by Worldcoin, a crypto initiative co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, are facing increased scrutiny from governments around the world. Since its official launch in July, approximately 2.3 million individuals have signed up to have their irises scanned by Worldcoin’s “orb” devices in order to obtain a digital identification and “free” virtual currency.

Altman explained that this digital ID would allow clients to confirm their human status online, which could be valuable in a future AI-driven environment. However, privacy advocates have raised concerns about the initiative’s data collection process. Worldcoin’s developers have claimed that biometric data is either deleted or stored in encrypted form and stressed their collaboration with regulatory authorities.

A recent report by Reuters highlighted the scrutiny faced by Worldcoin in Argentina, where the Agencia de Acceso a Informacion Publica (AAIP) has been investigating the initiative’s compliance with data collection, storage, and usage regulations. The AAIP requested additional information from Worldcoin in August 2023, including details on risk mitigation and the legal basis for processing personal data.

In the UK, Britain’s data regulator expressed interest in potentially investigating the operations of the Worldcoin platform. The Information Commissioner’s Office acknowledged the launch and stated their intention to conduct further inquiries. French data regulator CNIL has conducted checks at Worldcoin’s Paris location and expressed concerns about the legality of its biometric data collection.

German data regulators have been probing Worldcoin’s operations since last year due to concerns regarding the processing of users’ biometric data. Financial regulator Bafin is also investigating the project’s virtual currency. Kenya temporarily halted Worldcoin’s operations while authorities assessed the potential risks it posed to the public’s safety and well-being. Concerns were raised about user consent and the potential for financial incentives to be deemed “inducement.”

Portugal’s data regulator, CNPD, has examined Worldcoin’s data collection practices and has been communicating with the Bavarian data protection agency in Germany. The CNPD may publish the results of its investigation in due course.

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