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Spain’s Privacy Concerns Puts Brakes on Worldcoin's Crypto-based ID Scheme

Spain’s Privacy Concerns Puts Brakes on Worldcoin's Crypto-based ID Scheme

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The Spanish government's data protection agency (AEPD) ordered Worldcoin to halt its eyeball recognition project over privacy concerns. 

Project Suspension

Worldcoin’s highly-discussed project involving eyeball recognition technology has hit a roadblock, facing suspension for the next three months. The Spanish privacy watchdog, AEPD, has raised significant concerns regarding the handling of users’ personal information within Worldcoin’s crypto-based initiative.

During the suspension period of the next three months, the firm is prohibited from enrolling new users or processing existing user data. The regulator cited numerous complaints against Worldcoin’s parent company, Tools for Humanity, alleging insufficient disclosure of project details and the collection of data from minors. Additionally, concerns were raised regarding the inability to withdraw consent once granted.

Worldcoin’s Eyeball Recognition Project

Established by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, the company has been developing a technology aimed at generating digital IDs through eyeball scanning in exchange for cryptocurrency. The objective is to provide individuals with an unforgeable form of identification. This is achieved by creating a "World ID" through the utilization of "orbs" – a device designed to capture iris images. Participants receive Worldcoin cryptocurrency in return for their participation.

The company launched multiple pop-up scanning sites across several European markets, including several locations in Spain, which has drawn attention from privacy regulators in Europe.

Legal Obligations

Processing biometric data, such as iris scans, demands stringent protection under the European Union’s General Data Protection Rules (GDPR). The AEPD emphasized the necessity of safeguarding personal data to prevent potential leaks and upholding individuals’ fundamental right to privacy. Privacy experts have expressed worries over potential misuse of collected data, such as for personalized marketing purposes.

Spain’s actions have prompted investigations by other nations, including France, Germany, and Kenya, into Worldcoin’s operations. The Kenyan government has even suspended new sign-ups for Worldcoin while assessing the adequacy of data protection measures.

Company Response

Worldcoin’s data protection officer, Jannick Preiwisch, criticized the AEPD's actions, saying, 

“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.” 

The company also asserted its compliance with regulations and highlighted its oversight by the Bavarian Data Protection Authority (BayLDA) within the EU. 

The firm has also claimed on its website that users can revoke their consent at any time, and all their user data would be deleted from the platform. 

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice. 

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