Argentina Becomes Latest Country to Conduct Probe Into Iris-Scanning Worldcoin’s Privacy Issues

Sujha Sundararajan
Last updated: | 2 min read
Source: Pixabay / Rudy and Peter

(This article has been amended with expert’s comment on 14/08/2023 at 11.45 am CET)

Argentina has joined the list of jurisdictions investigating the recently launched AI-meets-crypto project Worldcoin and its privacy practices that stirred endless controversies.

The Argentinian Agency for Access to Public Information (AAIP) published a notice on Aug. 8, which will conduct an investigation into the processing of personal data carried out by the Worldcoin Foundation in Argentina.

“The investigation will carefully analyze the processes and practices in relation to the collection, storage and use of personal data, to identify possible effects on the rights recognized by the Law.”

The Argentinian agency is studying Worldcoin over its collection, storage and use of customer data to ensure it meets with security and privacy regulations.

Worldcoin project from OpenAI founder Sam Altman uses orbs to scan people’s eyes in exchange for a digital ID and possibly some cryptocurrency, depending on the country they live.

On Aug. 2, Kenya became the first country to suspend Worldcoin’s activities and its government launched a multi-agency investigation into the project’s practices.

Citizens Have the Right

The agency emphasized that their citizens have the right whenever they provide personal data, to have “clear and accessible information,” especially with regard to sensitive data, such as biometric data. 

“The AAIP has channels enabled to make complaints regarding violations of the rights of access, rectification and deletion of personal data,” the release said.

The case has gained “public notoriety in recent weeks” because of scanning the irises of numerous Argentinians in exchange for economic compensation in different parts of the country including provisions of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza and Black River.

Per the notice, crypto projects like Worldcoin must first register with the AAIP, provide info about the project’s data processing policy, and indicate why they require sensitive data and the processing time.

“Cases like this make visible the need to strengthen the current legal framework regarding the Protection of Personal Data, as has been raised on repeated occasions and in various national and international forums by the AAIP.”

Kohei Kurihara, Chief Executive Officer at Tokyo-based Privacy by Design Lab told that the shortage of clarification with their processing data drives them to investigate systems and vulnerabilities.

“Some of the data protection authorities, such as in Kenya or Argentina, claim the concern of processing sensitive personal iris-data to identify the subject to register in their community.”  

According to the UNCTAD, 137 out of 194 countries had put in place legislation to secure the protection of data and privacy, and each jurisdiction has their own autonomies. “Global services should have to respond to their request to enter a new market,” Kurihara added.

Worldcoin Faces Increased Scrutiny

The project gained traction among users globally, with more than 2 million accounts registered within moments following the launch.

The French National Commission on Informatics and Liberty as well as Germany’s Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision have opened inquiries into the data collection practices by Worldcoin. The UK’s Information Commissions Office has also announced a probe into the project.

Furthermore, Vitalik Buterin, the co-founder of Ethereum, recently raised concerns stressing that the privacy and moral concerns expressed about the project could be legitimate, however, the project’s proof of personhood might bring major risks if not solved.