Worldcoin office in Paris searched as global regulatory pressure increases

Human ID project Worldcoin continues to face mounting pressures, and the latest in a long line of hurdles is an onsite check by France’s data watchdog.

Reuters reported that officials from the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) carried out a series of checks at Worldcoin’s Paris office. The CNIL noted that the purpose of the search was to ascertain the firm’s internal mechanisms regarding the handling of data but declined to give further context. Since July, the CNIL has aimed its crosshairs at Worldcoin over the “questionable” legality of its biometric data collection activities.

Worldcoin, co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, provides digital IDs for users after iris scans at “orbs” located around the world. To increase the number of users, Worldcoin incentivizes scans using digital currencies, which has triggered criticisms from diverse quarters.

Sam Altman has launched Worldcoin:

1. An orb pays you to scan your eyeballs 👁️
2. Your iris code gets added to a merkle tree 🌳
3. ZKPs verify personhood without revealing your identity

Worldcoin is a novel attempt of solving the sybil problem: 🧵

— cryptunez 🎮 (@cryptunez) July 28, 2023

Despite the criticisms, data from Worldcoin’s website reveals that over 2.2 million users have been scanned in the 39 days since launch. In the last week, new accounts surpassed the 50,000 mark, showing no signs of slowing down.

Worldcoin says it is not in breach of any existing data rules, taking great care to protect the data of its users.

“The team at Worldcoin welcomes any opportunity to address questions regarding the project’s purpose and technology,” said a Worldcoin spokesperson about the CNIL’s latest checks.

Since its launch, Worldcoin has been the subject of investigations in multiple jurisdictions worldwide. Argentina’s Public Information Access Agency is spearheading a probe into the project’s operations, following Germany’s move to investigate the firm’s activities.

Kenya initiated the shutdown of Worldcoin’s activities in the country due to concerns that Kenyans, attracted by the offer of 25 WLD tokens valued at $50, needed a full understanding of the implications of the scans.

Worldcoin said it uses the iris structure to generate a unique code stored using blockchain technology, which makes it untraceable to a specific individual.

Giving Worldcoin a chance

Proponents of Worldcoin’s offering have argued that the project is attempting to solve a crucial need around digital identities. While privacy concerns continue to trail the projects, experts call for regulators to create a robust framework to guide private entities looking to dabble in digital IDs rather than a blanket ban.

“No, a private company should not have the last word on identity — but if it has already invested in the infrastructure and technology, should we not build on its efforts?” said Paolo Tasca, founder of the Distributed Ledger Technology Science Foundation.

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