Sam Altman’s Worldcoin promised them free crypto for eyeball scanning. Now they feel robbed.

Plania described a futuristic world immersed in celestial bodies of various shapes and sizes, where each person associated with their iris would be assigned a unique and anonymous token that they could use to log into a range of web and blockchain-based applications.

Plania did not rule out the possibility that Worldcoin might charge a fee for providing this service, but the startup primarily plans to make money by raising the value of its currency. “You’re distributing a token to as many people as possible,” said Blanja. Because of this, “the utility of the token increases exponentially” and “the price of the token increases.”

Key to all of this technology is Orb itself, and the contract the Orb operators sign underscores the company’s focus on stress testing. The contract states, “Your role is to help us evaluate celestial bodies and how people interact with them. You should think of yourself as a product tester.”

Plania told BuzzFeed News that the company was primarily using its field tests to see how orbs perform in different environments — from the heat of Kenya to the frigid cold of Norway. “In Kenya where the heat was up to 40 degrees, the reflection on the orb is something we’ve never seen before here in Germany in the office,” said Blania.

Adam Schwartz, a senior lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the ambiguity around Worldcoin’s goals is disturbing. “The question is, is this a digital currency company, or is it a data broker?” He said. “In either case, the current practice of paying people for their biometrics is a major privacy and equity problem.”

“Worldcoin is not a data company and our business model does not involve the exploitation or sale of personal user data. Worldcoin is only concerned with the uniqueness of the user For example, they have never subscribed to Worldcoin before – not their identity,” Worldcoin said in a statement.

The company’s efforts to build its database may conflict with data privacy and processing laws in Kenya, where the company has extensive operations. Kenya recently passed a data protection law that prevents companies from transferring vital data abroad without approval from the newly formed Data Protection Commissioner’s Office. Worldcoin currently processes user data in the US, UK, Germany, Japan and India, according to its data consent form.

Immaculate Kasit, Kenya’s data commissioner, told BuzzFeed News that her office was “not aware” that Worldcoin was collecting biometric data for Kenyans and transmitting it abroad.

Cassette said by email that the company has until July 14 to register with the commission and provide a detailed assessment of the impact of data protection under Kenya’s newly implemented data privacy laws. Worldcoin told BuzzFeed News that the company will soon be partnering with the Kenya Data Commission and has already conducted a “rigorous” privacy impact assessment.

Solving the authentication problem in a way that preserves user privacy would be a major advance, said Brian Ford, who heads the Decentralized/Distributed Systems (DEDIS) Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and wrote one of the groundbreaking papers on proof of identity in 2008. However, Ford is not convinced by the Worldcoin solution. He said the company’s decision to build and store a giant central database of iris and iris segmentation, is a massive breach of user privacy.

“We oppose the characterization that the collection of images of Worldcoin users is a breach of privacy: if the collection of images of people with their consent is a breach of privacy, CLEAR” — the biometric identification company — “would be examples of invasions by both the United Nations and Aadhaar,” Worldcoin said in a statement to BuzzFeed. News.

Privacy advocates and security experts in India have long described Aadhaar, India’s massive biometric identification system, as a privacy nightmare. Experts also question whether Worldcoin has done enough to ensure it gets informed consent from people, given the company’s comprehensive terms and conditions, privacy policy and data consent forms are in English.

“Informed consent means that you are in a position to fully understand what is going on,” said Elias Okwara, Africa Policy Director for the Access Now group, noting that the majority of Kenya’s population speaks Swahili. “So right away, it becomes difficult to be able to explain what data processing means to an individual.”

Worldcoin said it would soon roll out its privacy model in six languages, and suggested that Orb operators were translating and explaining the company’s massive policies to people who don’t speak English. “In all of these local countries, we have Orb operators, and their whole goal and role is to explain what they approve of to people in their local languages,” the company said.

Any large biometric database is also vulnerable to hacking, Ford said, explaining that the database could be compromised if someone hacked into the thousands of orbs the company plans to distribute. “Basically there are no devices that are not reliably hackable,” Ford said.

Plania acknowledged that “there has never been an unbroken device” but said that Worldcoin was building fraud detection mechanisms to identify hacked orbs.

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