Worldcoin 'field testing'

April 2022

Utopian crypto start-up Worldcoin is deceiving and exploiting people as it looks to build an anonymous digital authentication business, according to Technology Review and Buzzfeed News reports.

Describing itself as an Ethereum-based 'new, collectively owned global currency that will be distributed fairly to as many people as possible', Worldcoin uses a 'chrome orb' to scan the irises and faces of people agreeing to sign up for a share of the new currency.

But media enquiries and internal documents reveal that Orb operators in many countries are not being paid for the users they sign-up, and face harassment and arrest under local laws. They also reveal complaints lodged by people having iris scans about unclear, misleading, and unethical marketing practices.

The reports also highlight substantial gaps between Worldcoin marketing rhetoric and the reality of its opaque and inconsistent privacy practices, with operators complaining that Worldcoin’s real purpose is to harvest eyeballs in return for a potentially worthless cryptocurrency.

Worldcoin was started by Y Combinator founder Sam Altman and AI researcher Alex Blania, and is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, and Coinbase Ventures, amongst others.

Operator: Tools for Humanity/Worldcoin
Developer:
Tools for Humanity/Worldcoin
Country:
Benin, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe
Sector:
Technology
Purpose:
Train algorithms
Technology:
Iris scanning; Facial detection; Vital signs detection; Blockchain; Virtual currency
Issue:
Privacy; Security
Opacity:
Governance; Privacy; Marketing