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.
Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) has initiated an investigation into Worldcoin, a project affiliated with Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT’s parent company OpenAI. This investigation arises from concerns about the potential privacy risks associated with Worldcoin’s identity verification process, which involves collecting iris biometric data from individuals.
The PCPD’s action included entering six Worldcoin-controlled premises in various locations across 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 data collection, usage, transfer, storage duration, and security measures implemented to protect the collected data.
The focus of the investigation centers on the use of iris scans for identity verification and the potential contravention of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance in Hong Kong. The collection and processing of such sensitive personal data by Worldcoin have raised alarms, prompting the PCPD to advise the public to exercise caution and protect their sensitive personal data, especially in activities involving the collection of biometric data such as iris scanning.
Worldcoin’s project, launched in 2021 and officially operational since July 2023, offers participants 25 WLD digital currencies in exchange for undergoing iris scanning 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 iris scanning activities in India. As of December 2023, over 5 million individuals have created accounts with Worldcoin using their biometric data.
This investigation by the Hong Kong authorities underscores the growing concern over privacy and the ethical use of biometric data in technological innovations, particularly in the cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors. It highlights the crucial need for a balance between technological advancement and the protection of individual rights, emphasizing the importance of adhering to data protection laws and regulations
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