Hong Kong Raids Worldcoin Operators Amid Biometric Data Concerns

February 2, 2024

By Sharan Kaur Phillora

Hong Kong’s privacy watchdog, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), has taken decisive action against Worldcoin, raiding six of its orb operators across the city. The raids come amid growing concerns over the cryptocurrency company’s practice of collecting biometric data, specifically iris scans, from individuals in exchange for digital currency. The Privacy Commissioner, Ada Chung, issued a stern public warning, urging citizens to be cautious about sharing sensitive personal data and to avoid participating in activities that collect such information without due consideration.

Here’s what we know:

Worldcoin, co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, requires users to undergo an eye scan to establish a “proof of personhood,” a concept designed to ensure each participant is a unique individual. This approach is central to Worldcoin’s vision of a future where distinguishing between humans and robots online becomes increasingly challenging. Despite the innovative approach, the project has faced criticism and regulatory scrutiny in various countries due to privacy concerns.

The Privacy Commissioner’s office has expressed serious reservations about Worldcoin’s operations, suggesting they may contravene the city’s Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. “The operation of Worldcoin in Hong Kong involves serious risks to personal data privacy,” stated Lo Dik-fan, a senior personal data officer at the Office.

In response to the raids, Worldcoin emphasized its commitment to user privacy, stating that biometric data is processed locally within the scanning orbs and is permanently deleted afterward. The company also highlighted the use of zero-knowledge proofs, a technology designed to verify certain attributes, such as age, without revealing any personal information.

Despite these assurances, the privacy watchdog’s actions reflect a growing global concern over the use of biometric data and the potential for misuse. The investigation will focus on the number of participants in Hong Kong, the leaders behind Worldcoin, and whether users consented to the collection of their biometric information.

This incident underscores the delicate balance between innovation in the digital currency space and the imperative to protect individual privacy. As the situation unfolds, it will be crucial for companies like Worldcoin to navigate these challenges transparently and in compliance with local and international regulations.

About the author

Sharan Kaur Phillora’s thirst for knowledge has led her to study many different subjects, including NFTs and Blockchain technology – two emerging technologies that will change how we interact with each other in the future. When she isn’t exploring a new idea or concept, she enjoys reading literary masterpieces.

Translate Now