The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision, or BayLDA, reportedly began an investigation into human identity verification project Worldcoin based on concerns over biometric data.
According to a July 31 Reuters report, the German data watchdog launched a probe into Worldcoin’s activities starting in November 2022. Worldcoin, a project started with the intention of distinguishing real people from bots by providing retinal scans for identity verification, had more than 2 million sign-ups prior to the launch of its token in July.
This retinal scan data reportedly drew the attention of BayLDA. President Michael Will reportedly said the technologies were neither “established nor well analysed” for use in transferring financial information, leading to a potential risk for Worldcoin users.
Authentication vs verification
Authenticating ownership (e.g. FaceID) uses biometrics as a password, where a 1:1 comparison is performed against a saved ID template.
Verifying uniqueness compares biometrics against (up to) billions of registered users in a 1:N comparison. pic.twitter.com/u2cfHkKFI9
— Worldcoin (@worldcoin) July 31, 2023
In addition to reported inquiries from the BayLDA, the French National Commission on Informatics and Liberty has reportedly called Worldcoin’s data collection methods “questionable”. The Information Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom has cited similar concerns over the project. Tools For Humanity, the company behind Worldcoin, has a subsidiary in Germany, but the project has been attracting interest from users in many countries.
Since launching the token in July, Worldcoin co-founder Sam Altman reported a new person was “getting verified every 8 seconds” through iris scans around the world. Major players including Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and Block CEO Jack Dorsey have already weighed in on the project, as many crypto users have pointed to potential benefits including repaying those affected by the collapses of Three Arrows Capital and FTX.