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Worldcoin Under Scrutiny in South Korea: Data Collection and Privacy Practices Questioned

Last Updated March 12, 2024 9:49 AM
Eddie Mitchell
Last Updated March 12, 2024 9:49 AM
Key Takeaways
  • Worldcoin is offering crypto in return for scans of faces and eyes to create unique World IDs.
  • South Korean regulators will now probe the data collection and processing methods of Worldcoin.
  • Worldcoin is under investigation by other regulators around the world.

South Korea’s Personal Information Protection Commission is launching an investigation  into Worldcoin (WLD) following concerns over how the company handles private data.

Worldcoin, a project co-founded by OpenAI’s Sam Altman, has been collecting facial and iris recognition information, and is also facing scrutiny from other regulatory bodies around the world.

Worldcoin South Korea Trouble

The South Korean regulatory body has said  that the investigation into Worldcoin’s practices was prompted by complaints over potential violations of data protection laws.

The commission intends to look into Worldcoin’s data processing and storage practices, spurred by reports that the company had been collecting scans at approximately ten locations in South Korea.

As per the PIPC, there will be a thorough examination of how Worldcoin collects, stores, processes, and potentially transfers this data, with a particular focus on local privacy regulations. Should the commission find any violations, then it intends to “take necessary actions in accordance with relevant regulations.”

It’s worth noting that the PIPC imposed a small fine  on Sam Altman’s OpenAI after finding that the personal information of almost 700 South Koreans was leaked through ChaptGPT, a precedent that may contribute to the concerns of South Korean regulators.

What is Worldcoin?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has reached a point where it is difficult to tell if online activity or content was created by a real human. Worldcoin proposes to resolve this problem by creating a digital passport based on “proof of personhood” (PoP).

Using a proprietary device called the Orb, Worldcoin scans a user’s face and iris to generate their verified unique digital ID, or “World ID”. In a spree of onboarding efforts , Worldcoin has been offering the WLD crypto in exchange for sign-ups, with events in places like Spain .

The Worldcoin app functions as a crypto wallet where user’s credentials are stored and can be used to verify their identities on other third-party apps. According to Worldcoin, the World App had over a million daily users  in February 2024.

According to Worldcoin, once the Orb has processed your face and iris pattern, it creates the user’s unique identity code and issues the World ID, with the images permanently deleted afterward.

As per Worldcoin : “Images data never leaves the Orb. Once you’ve verified, it’s permanently deleted.”

Other Worldcoin Investigations

Seemingly, Worldcoin isn’t just an area of concern in South Korea, with probes into the nature of the company’s data collection and storage dating back to 2023.

Following its launch in July 2023, the UK regulators called for an inquiry the same month, which was then followed by a string of other regulatory bodies in France, Argentina, Germany, Kenya, and Hong Kong, who are all now probing the identity platform.

Recently, Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner held raids  on six of Worldcoin’s sign-up locations. Interestingly, The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, raided these offices without having received any complaint, the Office said this investigation was launched proactively.

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