Worldcoin Launches Cryptocurrency Scheme with Eyeball Scans
Worldcoin, a new cryptocurrency scheme launched by OpenAI boss Sam Altman, has caught the attention of the UK data watchdog. The project offers digital coins in exchange for eyeball scans using a silver orb. Altman describes Worldcoin as a “global financial and identity network based on proof of personhood,” which he believes is crucial in the AI era. However, the scheme has faced criticism for its potential security risks and dystopian nature.
The Information Commissioner’s Office, responsible for upholding data privacy rights in the UK, has announced that it will be investigating Worldcoin. A spokesperson for the office stated, “We note the launch of Worldcoin in the UK and will be making further enquiries.”
What is Worldcoin and How Does it Work?
Worldcoin is a project developed by Tools For Humanity, a company co-founded by Sam Altman and Alex Blania. It aims to provide a method of digital identification that can distinguish humans from AI online. Prior to its launch, Worldcoin attracted two million sign-ups. The project involves individuals looking into an orb, which scans their iris to verify their human identity. Once verified, they are assigned a “World ID” on the Worldcoin smartphone app and receive a small amount of cryptocurrency called WLD. This process, known as “orbing,” is being deployed in 35 cities across 20 countries, excluding the US due to regulatory concerns.
Worldcoin’s website provides information on pop-up sites where individuals can participate in the orbing process. In the UK, all three locations are in London.
Why Would Anyone Want Worldcoin?
Sam Altman believes that Worldcoin will help humans adapt to an economy that is being reshaped by AI. The project not only distinguishes between humans and machines but also has the potential to aid individuals financially as technology takes over more jobs. Altman suggests that Worldcoin could be used to verify eligibility for benefits and reduce fraud. The project’s website also mentions the possibility of using Worldcoin as voter ID in elections.
Privacy and Security Concerns
Privacy and security are major concerns surrounding Worldcoin. Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, has expressed worries that iris scans may reveal personal information, including medical conditions. Additionally, the security of the orbs themselves is questionable. The Worldcoin website allows anyone to apply as an “orb operator,” raising concerns about the construction and potential backdoors in the orbs. There is also the risk of users’ phones being hacked, putting their World ID at risk. Furthermore, with only 1,500 orbs in circulation and many people in less developed countries lacking smartphones, access to Worldcoin may be limited.
Worldcoin’s CEO, Alex Blania, argues that blockchains can securely store the cryptocurrency transactions and prevent any single entity from shutting them down.
Will Worldcoin Succeed?
Worldcoin may face challenges in gaining widespread acceptance, particularly among those who are skeptical of cryptocurrencies. The collapse of major platform FTX last year has led to stricter regulations on crypto assets in the UK. The Financial Conduct Authority has launched a crackdown on firms marketing such assets. Grzegorz Drozdz, an analyst at investment firm Conotoxia, believes that Worldcoin may struggle to win over true believers. Giving away WLD tokens to anyone who signs up may devalue the currency in the long term. Drozdz also suggests that WLD is unlikely to rival established tokens like Bitcoin or Ethereum in terms of price and popularity.
Despite these challenges, Worldcoin experienced a peak price of $3.30 (£2.57) in early trading on Monday, according to market tracker CoinGecko. As of Tuesday morning, it stood at $2.01 (£1.57).
Overall, Worldcoin’s launch has generated both excitement and concerns, with its unique approach to digital identification and potential impact on the AI era.