UK data regulator The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says it is looking after Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency recently launched by OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman. The regulator mentioned that it has noted the launch of the project’s token, WLD in the UK and will be launching investigation into it.
According the ICO, Worldcoin, which involves scanning users’ eyes needs to conduct proper Data Protection Impact Assessment if they are involved in processing high-risk biometric data. ICO also stated that it will need to be consulted should the risks be considered to high.
“Organizations must conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment before starting any processing that is likely to result in high risk, such as processing special category biometric data. Where they identify high risks that they cannot mitigate, they must consult the ICO,” the regulator said.
Worldcoin launched yesterday 24 July and was warmly welcomed with top crypto exchanges like Binance, OKX, Coinbase, and many others rushing to list it. The project’s token WLD soared to over 90% the same day before crashing back down.
On the same day, Ethereum CEO and co-founder Vitalik Buterin wrote a blog describing four major risks the project poses, including privacy violation concerns. The project has also attracted criticisms from various quarters, some outrightly referring to it as a scam.
Although the UK isn’t straight up against Worldcoin, it needs a clear lawful basis for personal data processing in the UK, as well as freely given consent.
“Organizations also need to have a clear lawful basis to process personal data. Where they are relying on consent, this needs to be freely given and capable of being withdrawn without detriment,” the ICO said.
Worldcoin defends itself
In response to the reaction from the UK authorities, Woldcoin says its project is in full compliance and has not violated any privacy laws, in an interview with The Block.
“The Worldcoin Foundation, and its contributor Tools for Humanity, adhere to the strictest privacy guidelines and requirements in the markets where Worldcoin is available and in select communities we are continuing to assess local laws and regulations to ensure compliance,” Worldcoin told The Block.
Worldcoin also said it is fully compliant with all laws and regulations governing biometric data collection and data transfer, including Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. it further stated that no sensitive personal data such as name, phone number, email address or home address is required to use Worldcoin.
A controversial project
Proof-of-personhood isn’t a new idea, but Worldcoin’s project is the first application of the idea to have gained so much attention.
One of the major red flags pointed out is that the project isn’t allowed to operate in the U.S. where it originates because the U.S. knows it to be illegal.
Apparently the project already has a lot of supporters, but a closer look into it may raise some disturbing questions on the basis of the project.