Hong Kong Initiates Investigation on Worldcoin Over Customer Iris Data Collection
Hong Kong’s PCPD executed searches at Worldcoin stores, alleging illegal personal data collection from its customers.
Hong Kong Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) initiated an investigation into the iris biometric cryptocurrency project, Worldcoin. The regulatory entity executed searches at various Worldcoin stores in Hong Kong, including those situated in Yau Ma Tei, Kwun Tong, Wan Chai, Cyberport, Central, and Causeway Bay, based on court warrants. The inquiry is focused on concerns about the potential collection of private customer information.
According to the PCPD, the operations of Worldcoin in Hong Kong raise concerns regarding potential serious risks to personal data privacy. The collection and processing of such data by organizations may lead to potential violations of the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance—a 1995 law issued to protect the privacy of individuals in relation to personal data.
The Hong Kong Commissioner’s Office urged the public to exercise caution and refrain from casually providing sensitive data. Furthermore, individuals are advised to evaluate the legality of the data collected by organizations, taking into consideration factors such as the extent, purpose, use, retention period, and security measures associated with the collected data.
“Worldcoin was established to help create access and participation in the global digital economy while preserving privacy. Worldcoin does not seek to know who a person is, just that they are human and unique. As such, any information used to verify unique humanness is promptly deleted by default,” a Worldcoin Foundation spokesperson told Metaverse Post.
“Worldcoin welcomes regulators, including the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), and consumers to inquire and seek information or clarifications about its programs available to the people in their communities, cities, countries or regions. The Worldcoin Foundation is committed to full compliance with all relevant laws and regulations governing the processing of personal data in the markets where Worldcoin operates. This includes, but is not limited to, The Hong Kong Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.”
Despite the absence of any complaints received thus far, an investigation has been initiated proactively, according to Lu Difan, Senior Personal Data Officer of PCPD.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has used its authority under the Privacy Ordinance to enter the aforementioned six premises. This action was executed with a court warrant to conduct investigations and request relevant parties to provide the necessary documents and information.
Worldcoin’s Global Expansion Amidst Regulatory Scrutiny
Worldcoin is a cryptocurrency and digital identity project initiated by Tools for Humanity (TFH) and co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in 2023.
The project’s primary objective is to tackle income inequality through its distinctive World ID feature, encompassing a three-part mission: the creation of a global unique digital identity, the establishment of a global currency (WLD token), and the development of an application that facilitates payments, purchases, and transfers using its token alongside other cryptocurrencies and traditional assets.
To verify the authenticity of individuals, Worldcoin employs Orb devices to scan people’s irises and collect the necessary data. Worldcoin has amassed a user base of 3 million during its beta phase and is currently expanding its operations to bring in more users.
However, at present, its token has no defined real-world use case.
The project has raised concerns among regulators and privacy advocates worldwide. These concerns arise from an alleged lack of transparency regarding the methods employed by the organization to collect people’s data as the aggregation of data from millions of individuals by a single company is perceived as a potential threat to data privacy.
Shortly after the introduction of Worldcoin token, it garnered attention and scrutiny from authorities in Kenya, Britain and Germany.
Recently, Worldcoin launched in Singapore after a temporary pause in India, alongside the conclusion of registration services in Brazil and France–the initiatives that were initially intended as limited previews, with plans for a more substantial rollout in 2024.
In light of the ongoing investigations into Worldcoin’s operations, PCPD is examining the project’s potential privacy risks, highlighting the importance of vigilance in sharing sensitive information for the public.
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