19th April 2024
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Spain puts temporary ban on Worldcoin eyeball scans, over privacy concerns

Spain’s privacy regulator has ordered for Worldcoin, the company that scans eyeballs to make digital IDs in exchange for crypto, to cease its operations in the country for three months. The move comes amid concerns over the handling of users’ personal data by the company created by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.

Worldcoin’s primary objective is to provide individuals with an identification system resistant to theft or replication. This is achieved by creating a ‘World ID’ through the use of ‘orbs’ – devices that capture images of individuals’ irises, the coloured parts of the eyes.

In return for undergoing this process, participants receive Worldcoin cryptocurrency. However, Spain’s Agency for Data Protection instructed Worldcoin’s parent company Tools for Humanity Corporation on Wednesday to stop collecting personal data and keep hold of all information already collected.

The agency said in a statement that it had received various complaints against the company that range from gathering the personal information of minors to not allowing for people to withdraw their consent to sharing personal data.

People have lined up at points where these orbs are placed in cities like Madrid and Barcelona in recent months. More than 360,000 people in Spain have signed up for Worldcoin, according to the most recent company data from November.

While Worldcoin argues that the data is used to create a unique, secure form of identification, privacy experts have concerns that the company may use the information in other ways, like personalised marketing.

That has led other countries to investigate Worldcoin’s operations, including France and Germany.

The Kenyan government has likewise suspended new sign-ups for Worldcoin as it investigates whether people’s information is being properly protected.

Worldcoin responded that their operations preserve privacy.

‘The Spanish data protection authority (AEPD) is circumventing EU law with their actions today, which are limited to Spain and not the broader EU, and spreading inaccurate and misleading claims about our technology globally,’ Jannick Preiwisch, Worldcoin’s data protection officer, said in a statement.

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