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Worldcoin in Trouble? UK Regulator Probes Privacy Concerns Amid Surge of Newly Launched WLD

Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency established by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, attracted some attention during its launch this week. According to a report by Reuters, the UK’s privacy authority, the Information Commission Office (ICO), is looking into the launch stating that it has taken notice of the Worldcoin launch in the UK and will be conducting more research.

Additionally, it emphasized that organizations are required to conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment before processing any data that could be potentially harmful to the public, such as special category biometric data.

The Information Commission Office (ICO) is an independent organization that oversees data protection in the United Kingdom. It is tasked with protecting information rights and ensuring compliance with data protection legislation such as the Data Protection Act (DPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The Information Commissioner’s Office can and has handed out hefty fines like the £20m ($25m) it fined British Airways for breaching data protection laws and processing the personal information of 400,000 customers without proper security procedures.

Worldcoin, the crypto project initiated by Open AI CEO Sam Altman, allows users to provide retina scans to receive digital identification and free cryptocurrency through their service. Worldcoin was launched on July 24 after an initial 2 million people joined the project in the beta phase.

However, it has received criticism, notably from individuals like Vitalik Buterin, who expressed concerns about the potential privacy implications of sharing personal information by scanning a person’s iris. Buterin makes the case that iris scanning can unintentionally reveal more information than is intended.

The Ethereum founder argues that anyone may check the Worldcoin database to determine if a World ID holder is in the system by scanning their iris and comparing the results.

Buterin is also concerned about the difficulty of obtaining an “Orb” device; as such World IDs won’t be available to everyone but mainly people living in larger cities.

Worldcoin said in a statement to CNBC that they would “comply with all laws and regulations governing the processing of personal data in the markets where Worldcoin is available, including the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) and the UK Data Protection Act. From its inception, Worldcoin was designed to protect individual privacy.” 

According to Worldcoin, the project has built a solid privacy program and deployed a privacy-centric design. They said they had carried out an exhaustive Data Protection Impact Assessment and were immediately addressing requests from people to delete their data.

At the time of writing, Worldcoin is trading at $2.19 according to data from CoinGecko, a long way off from the $3.30 it had reached after its launch just days ago.

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