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Worldcoin Under Investigation by German Regulators Since November 2022

German privacy regulators have been investigating Worldcoin amid growing concerns over its data collection process and whether users specifically consented to biometric data being aggregated for financial purposes.


German authorities have been investigating Worldcoin since November 2022
Creator: Noppanun Lerdwattanapaisan | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

MUNICH, DE – The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision, one of Germany's leading privacy regulators, initiated an investigation into Worldcoin's data collection practices in November 2022, according to a report by Reuters on July 31. The investigation remains ongoing, with concerns arising over the project's ambitious goal of processing "sensitive data at a very large scale." The President of the Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision, Michael Will, expressed his worries about the scope of Worldcoin's data processing activities.


Collaboration With Other European Authorities


As the company behind the Worldcoin project, Tools for Humanity, maintains a subsidiary in Germany, the country's privacy watchdog is taking the lead in the investigation under the jurisdiction of European data protection regulations.


Interestingly, other European authorities have also shown interest in Worldcoin, seeking information from the German regulator as part of their collaborative effort to oversee the project's data collection and storage practices. Privacy regulators in the United Kingdom and France have launched their own independent investigations into the matter, with France working in close coordination with its German counterpart.


Worldcoin Privacy Concerns Not Quelled


Worldcoin, founded by Sam Altman, the visionary behind OpenAI, aims to establish itself as a decentralized "identity and financial network." The project recently launched on July 24, introducing 1500 physical "orbs" across various cities worldwide. These orbs have the capability to scan individuals' eyes to generate a unique Worldcoin ID. As an incentive for participation, individuals receive 25 Worldcoin tokens and a distinctive identification within the network.


However, the orbs have raised significant concerns among European authorities due to stringent data protection rules. Regulators in multiple countries are scrutinizing the project to ensure compliance with these data protection standards. Key concerns revolve around the security of data storage and whether participants provided explicit consent for the collection of sensitive biometric data. Additionally, regulators are closely evaluating the overall soundness and security of the underlying technology.


President Will shared his apprehensions about the new technology being utilized, stating,


"These technologies are at first sight neither established nor well analyzed for the specific core purpose of the processing in the field of transferring financial information."

Worldcoin Mum in Response


In response to these concerns, Worldcoin's website and whitepaper claim that all collected data is securely stored in encrypted form. The project further utilizes zero-knowledge proof technology for verification purposes.


Worldcoin had previously asserted its full compliance with European data protection regulations and emphasized that it operated under the supervision of the Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision. However, it remains uncertain whether the project was aware of the ongoing investigation conducted by the German regulator.


As of press time, neither Worldcoin nor its parent company, Tools for Humanity, have provided a comment in response to the investigation and the growing concerns raised by European privacy regulators.


The investigation into Worldcoin's data practices continues, and European authorities are determined to ensure that the project adheres to the strictest privacy protections for the data of its users. With collaboration between national regulators, the scrutiny on Worldcoin sets a precedent for how emerging technologies must demonstrate compliance with data protection standards in the increasingly interconnected world.

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