French data protection authority CNIL has initiated an investigation into Worldcoin, a web3 startup co-founded by OpenAI’s Sam Altman, over concerns related to its biometric data collection practices. Worldcoin recently announced the official launch of its global identity platform, which utilizes iris biometrics as a means of establishing ‘proof of personhood’ for its users. However, the legality and conditions of this data collection have come under scrutiny, prompting regulatory attention from both CNIL and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The crux of the issue lies in Worldcoin’s process of scanning users’ eyes to ensure that no individual can fraudulently claim cryptocurrency rewards multiple times. While the project’s proponents believe it could drive cryptocurrency adoption on a broad scale, privacy watchdogs have raised alarm bells regarding data collection, consent practices, and potential security risks associated with biometric data.
To become verified users on the platform, individuals must undergo eye scans via biometric devices called “Orbs.” These football-sized silver globes have now been deployed in at least 35 cities worldwide, with 2 million people already signed up for the service. The scanning process takes approximately 15 seconds and results in the creation of a “World ID” – a digital passport that serves as proof of a unique identity while preserving anonymity. Worldcoin’s promise of a secure and transparent service for verified humans is being closely scrutinized by regulators.
CNIL’s investigation is said to support the efforts of Bavarian privacy regulators, who have primary jurisdiction over this matter under EU law. The UK’s ICO has also expressed its intention to make inquiries into Worldcoin’s data collection and privacy practices.
Worldcoin’s platform raises questions about data protection and privacy, particularly concerning the retention and potential exploitation of biometric data. Privacy advocates and watchdog groups, including the ICO and Big Brother Watch, have voiced concerns about the risks of unauthorized access to such sensitive data. As the investigation progresses, Worldcoin will likely face increased pressure to demonstrate compliance with GDPR and other relevant regulations, as well as to address potential vulnerabilities in its biometric data handling and security protocols.
July 28, 2023 – by the FindBiometrics Editorial Team