Hong Kong Probes Worldcoin Over Privacy, Iris Scans in Focus

Hong Kong's privacy watchdog investigates Worldcoin's use of iris scans, raising crucial questions about biometric data and privacy in the crypto world.

Iris scanning Worldcoin

In the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong, a storm is brewing around Worldcoin, a project that has raised eyebrows and concerns over privacy. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) in Hong Kong has launched an investigation into Worldcoin's local operations, citing "serious risks to personal data privacy."

Worldcoin employs iris-scanning orbs to verify users' identities, a method that has drawn scrutiny from various quarters. As of December 2023, over 5 million people have created accounts using this biometric method. However, the PCPD's intervention highlights a growing concern: the collection and processing of sensitive personal data, particularly biometric data like iris scans, which the commission deems as sensitive according to regulatory guidelines.

The PCPD's investigation is not just a routine check. It involved executing warrants and entering six premises controlled by Worldcoin in Hong Kong. The commission's message is clear: any personal data controlled by Worldcoin must be collected for a lawful purpose related to the project's function or activity. This stance underscores the delicate balance between innovative technology and the protection of individual privacy.

Worldcoin's journey has been a rollercoaster of sorts. Despite its ambitious start and the rapid sign-up of more than 2 million people before its official launch in July 2023, it has faced regulatory pushbacks. The project had to suspend its services in Kenya and pause iris scans in India due to privacy concerns. These actions reflect the global apprehension about the potential misuse of biometric data.