Worldcoin 'digital identity and financial network'

Released: April 2022

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Worldcoin is a self-described 'digital identity and financial network' that uses a 'chrome orb' to scan the irises and faces of people agreeing to sign up for a share of its new WLD currency.

The WLD currency started trading on July 24, 2023 under the auspices of the Worldcoin Foundation, a Cayman Islands 'exempted limited guarantee foundation company'. The currency trades in multiple jurisdictions - except the US, in which the laws are 'unclear', according to Worldcoin. 

Field-testing privacy, marketing concerns

In April 2022, internal documents shared with Technology Review and Buzzfeed News revealed that Orb operators in a number of countries were not being paid for users they had been signing-up, faced harassment and arrest under local laws, and that people having iris scans were complaining about unclear, misleading, and unethical marketing practices. 

It also emerged that Worldcoin had been collecting more personal data than it acknowledged, had failed to obtain meaningful informed consent, and that the company had failed to declare that it was using user data to train its artificial intelligence models.  potentially worthless cryptocurrency.

Regulatory investigations

Shortly after the currency's launch, the UK privacy regulator announced it would 'examine' Worldcoin's business and France's privacy watchdog CNIL told Reuters that the legality of Worldcoin's data collection 'seems questionable'

In August 2023, Kenya suspended Worldcoin, leading to a Kenyan parliamentary committee arguing (pdf) the company and its partners had violated Kenyan law and be shut down until the country established proper regulations over virtual assets.

The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision has also been investigating Worldcoin since November 2022 over  concerns the project seeks to process 'sensitive data at a very large scale' using new technology. 

Operator: Tools for Humanity/Worldcoin
Developer: Tools for Humanity/Worldcoin
Country: Argentina, Benin, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Turkey, Uganda, UK, Zimbabwe
Sector:  Banking/financial services
Purpose: Develop digital identity
Technology: Iris scanning; Facial detection; Vital signs detection; Blockchain; Virtual currency
Issue: Privacy; Security; Legality
Transparency: Governance; Privacy; Marketing

Page info
Type: System
Published: April 2022
Last updated: November 2023