Scrutiny of iris-scanning crypto project Worldcoin grows

By Elizabeth Howcroft and Tom Wilson

LONDON (Reuters) – Increasing numbers of governments around the world are scrutinising Worldcoin, a crypto project co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman that was launched in July.

Almost 2.3 million people globally have signed up to have their irises scanned by Worldcoin’s “orb” devices in exchange for a digital ID and free cryptocurrency.

Altman says its ID will allow users to, among other things, prove online that they are human, notably in a future world dominated by artificial intelligence.

Worldcoin has drawn criticism from privacy campaigners over its data collection. It has said the biometric data is either deleted or stored in encrypted form, and that it is “committed” to working with regulators.

Here’s the latest on action taken by governments:


In Argentina, where Worldcoin says interest in the project is strong, the Agencia de Acceso a Informacion Publica (AAIP) data regulator said last month it was investigating Worldcoin over its collection, storage and use of personal data.

In a letter dated Aug. 7, the AAIP asked Worldcoin for information about the project, including mitigation of risks and the “legal basis for the processing of personal data.”

Scrutiny of iris-scanning crypto project Worldcoin grows
A general view of the biometric imaging device, the Orb of the identity and financial public utility Worldcoin, to create a World ID digital passport, being able to trade in cryptocurrency issued, in Berlin, Germany August 1, 2023. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse / Crypto project


Britain’s data regulator said in July that it would examine Worldcoin.

“We note the launch of Worldcoin in the UK and will be making further enquiries,” the Information Commissioner’s Office said.


France’s data watchdog CNIL carried out “checks” at Worldcoin’s Paris office this week, a spokesperson said on Aug. 31.

CNIL had previously said it was aware of the Worldcoin project and that the legality of its biometric data collection “seems questionable”. GERMANY

A German data watchdog has been investigating Worldcoin since late last year due to concerns over its large-scale processing of sensitive biometric data, it said.

Financial regulator Bafin is also investigating the digital currency, according to German business daily Handelsblatt.


In August Kenya suspended Worldcoin’s local activities while the government assesses potential risks to public safety.

A preliminary review had raised concerns, including that obtaining consumer consent in return for a monetary award bordered on inducement, the Communications Authority of Kenya and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner said.


Portugal’s data regulator, the CNPD, has inspected Worldcoin’s local data collection operation and been in contact with the Bavarian data protection authority in Germany, a spokesperson said.

The CNPD would make the outcome of its inquiry public “in due time,” it said.