Hong Kong Initiates Probe into Worldcoin Over Privacy Fears

Shalini Nagarajan
Last updated: | 2 min read
Hong Kong Initiates Probe into Worldcoin Over Privacy Fears
Source: DALL·E 3

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman’s Worldcoin project continues to raise privacy concerns — and is now under probe in Hong Kong.

Local media outlet HKET reported that Hong Kong’s data protection authority investigated six Worldcoin booths, using a court warrant on Wednesday. They also requested the operators to share relevant documents and information.

According to the Privacy Commissioner’s Office, Worldcoin raises significant concerns about personal data privacy and could potentially breach data laws. The office reportedly launched an inquiry into the project, keeping in mind the privacy of individuals’ data.

Privacy Commissioner Chung Liling cautioned the public against being too casual when participating in iris scanning activities, the report said.

A Worldcoin spokesperson said the project is committed to complying with relevant laws and regulations around personal data.

“Worldcoin welcomes regulators, including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), and consumers to inquire and seek information or clarifications about its programs available to the people in their communities, cities, countries or regions,” a spokesperson told Cryptonews.

“This includes, but is not limited to, The Hong Kong Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.”

Worldcoin launched in Hong Kong in July 2023, and the project quickly attracted a large number of participants.

The World App, Worldcoin’s crypto wallet application, saw over 1 million active users and garnered over 4 million downloads, within just six months of its launch.

Vision for Financial Equality Through Crypto Grants

Altman founded Worldcoin with the vision of implementing a universal basic income (UBI) system. The idea is that people receive recurring crypto grants as a guaranteed source of income.

The project uses a special device called the “Orb” to scan people’s eyes, ensuring each crypto grant goes to a different person.

Operators responsible for the Orbs perform these scans to confirm people’s identities. Their job is to make sure each person has a distinct digital wallet for Worldcoin, preventing fraud.

The goal is to promote financial equality and make digital assets accessible to all, but the method of collecting biometric data has raised privacy worries.

Worldcoin’s Biometric Data Collection Draws Global Regulatory Probes

The project is under scrutiny not only in Hong Kong but also globally, as regulators worldwide are concerned about how the company manages biometric information. Germany, France, and Britain have all indicated intentions to investigate the project.

Even Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has expressed reservations about the system used for verifying human identities.

Last month, Worldcoin temporarily paused its orb verification service in India, Brazil, and France.