Worldcoin Eyes Biz Users as Biometric Crypto Rises

Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency project launched last week with 2.2 million beta users already signed on, is banking on attracting business and government users with its unique biometric “digital passport,” a senior manager told Reuters.

Worldcoin was co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and promises to offer more secure crypto transactions with the help of its iris-scanning technology. The company uses a bowling ball-sized “orb” to scan users’ eyes for its World ID, which the company says will prove that the holder is human and not an AI bot. The crypto requires that users complete the iris scan to hold the currency — something the company touts as a security advantage, but others worry about data privacy implications.

“We are on this mission of building the biggest financial and identity community that we can,” Ricardo Maciera, general manager for Europe at Tools for Humanity, the company behind Worldcoin. On its website, the company says it’s manufactured 2,000 eye-scanning orbs and opened 561,051 accounts in the last seven days.

So far, Worldcoin has raised $115 million from venture capital investors during its first funding round in May. The company offered its beta users 25 free Worldcoin tokens to sign up at live events held in several countries over the last two years.

Worldcoin is currently not available in the US. Altman has said the crypto would not be available in countries where crypto regulations remained uncertain or unclear.

Security Enhancement or Threat?

Jim Dubois, author and former CIO of Microsoft, tells InformationWeek that proprietary biometric solutions can be a double-edged sword. “In general, biometrics increase security and usability,” he says. “Proprietary hardware increases security more but reduces usability because a user must have the hardware rather than anywhere anytime access. This is probably good and appropriate for high-value transactions, but less so for everyday stuff.”

Worldcoin has not been without its detractors. In 2022, an MIT Review article accused Worldcoin of using “deceptive marketing practices, collected more personal data than it acknowledged, and failed to obtain meaningful informed consent.” The article’s headline pulled no punches, either, declaring, “Deception, exploited workers, and cash handouts: How Worldcoin recruited its first half a million test users.”

Worldcoin issued a 25-page rebuttal to the MIT piece. Regulators in Europe are currently scrutinizing if Worldcoin’s methods to collect biometric data are in line with its countries’ privacy laws.

Brian Fricke, CISO for City National Bank of Florida, took to social media to ponder the future of the biometric crypto and make a case for keeping security at the forefront of the emerging technology. “The future of cryptocurrency is here and it’s looking right into our eyeballs,” he wrote. “But as we embrace this innovation, we must also consider the privacy implications … As we navigate this new frontier, let’s remember the importance of cybersecurity and data privacy. Let’s ensure that our ‘humanness’ is preserved, not just in the physical world, but in the digital one too.”

Founders Altman and Alex Blania offered a statement on the Worldcoin website: “Worldcoin is an attempt at global scale alignment, the journey will be challenging, and the outcome is uncertain. But finding new ways to broadly share the coming technological prosperity is a critical challenge of our time.”

InformationWeek has reached out to Worldcoin for comment.

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