Worldcoin Ordered to Halt Operations in Hong Kong

Worldcoin WLD

Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner has decided that Worldcoin broke privacy laws by holding onto sensitive biometric data such as face and iris images for up to a decade purely for training AI models.

On May 22, Privacy Commissioner Ada Chung Lai-ling instructed Worldcoin to stop all activities in Hong Kong that involve scanning and collecting iris and facial images of people using iris scanning devices.

Investigation into Worldcoin Project by Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner

The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) initiated an investigation into the Worldcoin project in January 2024 to assess potential risks to citizens’ personal data privacy and determine compliance with the PDPO.

During the investigation, the PCPD conducted 10 undercover visits across six premises associated with the Worldcoin project from December 2023 to January 2024.

According to the PCPD’s findings, the collection of face images was deemed unnecessary for verifying participants’ identities, as iris scanning devices could perform this verification onsite. This rendered the collection of face images redundant.

Additionally, Worldcoin failed to provide adequate information to participants, hindering their ability to make informed decisions and give genuine consent. Notably, the privacy notice was not available in Chinese, preventing non-English speakers from understanding the project’s policies and terms.

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The PCPD highlighted that operators of the iris scanning devices did not explain the documents to participants or clarify potential risks associated with disclosing biometric data, nor did they address participants’ inquiries.

Consequently, the PCPD concluded that Worldcoin’s collection of face and iris images violated data protection principles, deeming it unfair and unlawful under the PDPO.

Privacy Concerns Surrounding Worldcoin Project

The Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) ruled that Worldcoin’s retention of sensitive biometric data, such as face and iris images, for up to a decade solely for training AI models was unjustified.

During its operations in Hong Kong, Worldcoin confirmed scanning the faces and irises of 8,302 individuals for verification purposes.

Initially announced in 2021, the Worldcoin project attracted over two million sign-ups before officially launching in July 2023. However, the project has faced scrutiny from regulators in multiple countries due to privacy concerns. This scrutiny has resulted in the suspension of services in Kenya and the temporary halt of iris scans in India.

Important: Please note that this article is only meant to provide information and should not be taken as legal, tax, investment, financial, or any other type of advice.


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