OpenAI CEO Sam Altman's Worldcoin to ‘build infrastructure, allow third parties to use the technology’

In a bid to create a vast “identity and financial network,” Worldcoin, co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, recently launched its innovative platform, requiring users to undergo iris scans in exchange for a digital ID and, in some regions and receive free cryptocurrency. 

Despite concerns from privacy campaigners, the company reports that 2.2 million users have already signed up, mainly during a two-year trial period. Worldcoin aims to extend its services worldwide, with a vision to enable other organisations to utilise its cutting-edge iris-scanning and identity-verification technology.

The Worldcoin Foundation, a Cayman Islands-based entity, asserted its commitment to adhering to data protection laws and cooperating with governing bodies to address privacy concerns. Worldcoin plans to allow companies to utilise its digital identity system, thereby enabling various applications without gathering personal data. For instance, a coffee shop could use Worldcoin’s technology to ensure individuals claim only one free coffee.

Ricardo Macieira, the General Manager for Europe at Tools For Humanity, the San Francisco and Berlin-based company behind Worldcoin, shared their mission of building a vast financial and identity community. The company secured a substantial funding round of $115 million in May from venture capital investors, including Blockchain Capital, a16z crypto, Bain Capital Crypto, and Distributed Global.

Macieira stated that Worldcoin would continue to roll out operations in Europe, Latin America, Africa and “all the parts of the world that will accept us.” Worldcoin’s website outlines several potential applications, ranging from distinguishing humans from artificial intelligence to facilitating “global democratic processes” and even suggesting a “potential path” to universal basic income, though these outcomes are not guaranteed.

Macieira clarified that while they aspire to contribute to universal basic income, their primary focus is on creating the necessary infrastructure for governments or other entities to implement such programs.

“The idea is that as we build this infrastructure and that we allow other third parties to use the technology,” said Macieira, reported by Reuters.

Also read: Potential Risks of Signing up for Worldcoin

Addressing privacy concerns, Worldcoin’s website assures that the project is “completely private,” with biometric data either deleted or encrypted upon user preference. Nonetheless, regulators and privacy advocates have raised questions about the data collection and handling processes.

The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision, with jurisdiction in the European Union, began investigating Worldcoin in November 2022 due to concerns surrounding its large-scale processing of sensitive data. Michael Will, the president of the Bavarian regulator, emphasised the need for robust security measures and transparent explanations to comply with data protection requirements and said that Worldcoin’s system should be “safe and stable”.

Rainer Rehak, a researcher on AI and society at the Weizenbaum Institute in Berlin, expressed reservations about Worldcoin’s technology, deeming it “irresponsible” and questioning its problem-solving capabilities. He added, “The bottom line is it’s a big project to create a new consumer base for Web3 and crypto products.”

Also read: Open AI CEO Sam Altman’s Worldcoin rallies on first day; around $145 million worth of token traded

Many individuals interviewed at sign-up sites in Britain, India, and Japan cited the allure of receiving 25 free Worldcoin tokens, which the company offers to verified users.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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Updated: 03 Aug 2023, 09:34 AM IST


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