Worldcoin’s legal problems are far from over. Spearheaded by OpenAI, Sam Altman’s Worldcoin initiative continues to find itself embroiled in a privacy controversy as reports emerge of a probe launched by Hong Kong’s data protection authority.
HKET, a local media outlet, disclosed that six Worldcoin booths were subjected to investigation under a court warrant, with authorities requesting pertinent documents and information.
Worldcoin’s Data Handling Practices Under Investigation
Worldcoin was introduced in 2021 to find a reliable way to distinguish between human users and artificial intelligence (AI). The project was designed to reduce scams and imposters by allowing everyone online to confirm their human identity easily.
However, Hong Kong authorities believe that Worldcoin engaged in serious personal data privacy risks and may involve violations of the Privacy Ordinance.
According to the latest report, the Privacy Commissioner’s Office conducted inquiries at six different locations across Hong Kong, including Yau Ma Tei, Kwun Tong, Wan Chai, Cyberport, Central, and Causeway Bay, associated with the Worldcoin project.
The investigation reportedly focuses on potential violations of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, with concerns raised regarding the collection and processing of sensitive personal data by the organization.
Ada Chung Lai-ling, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, issued a cautionary statement urging citizens to exercise vigilance when participating in the project. She emphasized the importance of safeguarding sensitive personal data, especially in activities involving biometric data collection, such as iris scanning.
Chung reportedly highlighted key considerations citizens should evaluate before providing biometric data, including legality, purpose, usage, disclosure, retention, and security measures.
Worldcoin aims to build a decentralized proof-of-personhood solution to combat the utilization of multiple fake identities as AI slowly dominates most of the content online, among other things. Despite this ambitious vision, the project has drawn significant backlash since its best testing, especially in developing economies.
In September, the Kenyan government expressed concerns regarding data protection and questioned Worldcoin’s business model, prompting investigations into the project. This scrutiny compelled Alex Blania, the project’s co-CEO, to testify before a Kenyan Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee, defending the project against allegations of unauthorized data mining in Kenya.
Meanwhile, many experts have opined that while Proof-of-Personhood is essential, Worldcoin is not the way to achieve it.