Hong Kong Regulators Probe Worldcoin for Privacy Risks

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Hong Kong’s PCPD is investigating Worldcoin, linked to OpenAI’s Sam Altman, for potential privacy violations in biometric data collection methods, highlighting global privacy concerns in the crypto and blockchain industry.

The Hong Kong Privacy Commissioner (PCPD) has initiated investigation into Worldcoin, a project associated with Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT’s parent company OpenAI. This investigation stems from concerns about potential privacy risks related to Worldcoin’s identity verification process, which involves collecting iris biometric data from individuals.

The PCPD operation involved entering six premises controlled by Worldcoin at various locations in Hong Kong such as Yau Ma Tei, Kwun Tong, Wan Chai, Cyberport, Central and Causeway Bay. The Commission has requested documents and information from these premises to assess the legality and scope of the collection, use, transfer, duration of data storage and security measures applied to protect the data collected.

The focus of the investigation centers on the use of iris scanning for identity verification and the potential breach of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance in Hong Kong. The collection and processing of such sensitive personal data by Worldcoin has raised alarm, prompting the PCPD to advise the public to be careful and protect their sensitive personal data, especially for activities involving the collection of biometric data, such as iris scanning.

The Worldcoin project, launched in 2021 and officially operational from July 2023, offers participants 25 WLD digital currencies in exchange to undergo an iris scan and registration. However, this practice has drawn criticism and regulatory scrutiny in multiple countries, leading to the suspension of its services in Kenya and a pause in its iris scanning activities in India. As of December 2023, over 5 million people have created Worldcoin accounts using their biometrics.

This investigation by Hong Kong authorities highlights growing concerns about the privacy and ethical use of biometric data in technological innovation, particularly in the cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors. It highlights the vital need for a balance between technological progress and the protection of individual rights, stressing the importance of compliance with data protection laws and regulations

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