- Hong Kong’s privacy watchdog, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), investigates Worldcoin over concerns regarding data privacy and the use of iris-scanning technology.
- Worldcoin faces challenges, including discontinuing verification services in multiple countries, despite reporting over 5 million user accounts as of December 2023.
Hong Kong’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) has launched an investigation into Worldcoin, the identity verification project that employs cutting-edge iris-scanning technology. This move underscores the increasing concern over data privacy in the digital age and the potential risks associated with biometric data collection.
The PCPD’s inquiry, which involved raids on six locations associated with Worldcoin in Hong Kong, is focused on the project’s use of iris-scanning technology. There are concerns that Worldcoin‘s approach to verifying identities may conflict with Hong Kong’s personal data (privacy) ordinance, particularly when it comes to handling sensitive personal information.
Worldcoin‘s identity verification process relies on orbs that scan users’ irises, a method that has sparked discussions about the security and ethical use of biometric data. Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Ada Chung Lai-ling, has issued a caution to the public, emphasizing the importance of safeguarding sensitive personal information, especially in activities involving iris scanning. The investigation’s primary objective is to ensure compliance with local data protection laws and protect the privacy of Hong Kong residents.
Worldcoin’s Response and Challenges in the Privacy Debate
To address the concerns regarding biometric data, the PCPD has provided guidance for individuals contemplating sharing their biometric information. This guidance emphasizes the necessity of understanding the legitimacy, scope, purpose, and intended use of data collection. Additionally, it calls for transparency in data disclosure, transfer procedures, retention periods, and the implementation of robust security measures to safeguard this sensitive information.
Worldcoin has responded by asserting that the biometric data collected through its orbs is processed locally and permanently deleted. Furthermore, the project employs zero-knowledge proofs to enhance user privacy. Zero-knowledge proofs are a cryptographic technology that enables the verification of specific information, such as legal drinking age, without revealing other personal details.
Despite its innovative approach to digital identity verification, Worldcoin has encountered challenges, including the recent discontinuation of its Orb verification services in India, Brazil, and France. As of December 2023, Worldcoin reported that over 5 million people had created accounts on its platform. The project’s expansion into Singapore and its presence in various regions worldwide demonstrate a growing interest in digital identity solutions. However, this expansion has not been without privacy concerns and regulatory scrutiny, highlighting the ongoing debate surrounding the balance between technological innovation and data privacy.