Worldcoin Being Probed by French Privacy Regulator for ‘Questionable’ Practices

Sam Altman’s latest eyeball-scanning initiative is attracting attention from data protection regulators.

AccessTimeIconJul 28, 2023 at 12:54 p.m. UTC
Updated Jul 28, 2023 at 3:19 p.m. UTC
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Worldcoin (WLD), the crypto project launched by OpenAI’s Sam Altman, is being investigated by French data protection regulator CNI for “questionable” practices, the regulator told CoinDesk.

"The legality of this [data] collection seems questionable, as do the conditions for preservation of biometric data," a CNIL spokesperson said in a written statement, referring to Worldcoin's practice of scanning retinas to ensure that no single person can claim crypto rewards twice.

"CNIL has initiated investigations," supporting the work of Bavarian privacy regulators who have primary responsibility under EU law, the spokesperson added.

Worldcoin went live on Monday and its cheerleaders say it could spread crypto wider than bitcoin (BTC), but it has drawn the ire of privacy watchdogs in the U.K., where the Information Commissioner’s Office has warned that people must freely give consent to the processing of their personal data, and be able to withdraw it without detriment.

"The project will continue to cooperate with governing bodies on requests for more information about its privacy and data protection practices," the Worldcoin Foundation said in a statement to CoindDesk. "We are committed to working with our partners across Europe to ensure that the Worldcoin project meets regulatory requirements and provides a safe, secure, and transparent service for verified humans."

The Bavarian data protection regulator has not responded to CoinDesk requests for further comment about the nature of its investigation. Reuters reported on the probe earlier.

The project reiterated an earlier statement to CoinDesk that it complies with the EU’s law on biometric data collection and transfer, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and continues to assess local regulations to ensure compliance.

WLD tokens were trading up 1.5% over 24 hours at $2.19 at publication time.

UPDATE (July 28, 15:19 UTC): Adds Worldcoin Foundation comment in fifth paragraph.

Eliza Gkritsi contributed to reporting.

Edited by Parikshit Mishra.


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Jack Schickler

Jack Schickler is a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.

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