Hundreds sign up to ponder OpenAI founder's eye-scanning crypto orb despite data concerns

The world as per Worldcoin signups.
(Image credit: Worldcoin)

All hail the orb, crypto-fuelled hoarder of biometric data. Such is the will of OpenAI's Sam Altman, with his Worldcoin cryptocurrency-adjacent iris scanning project. A project that is under scrutiny from government officials.

Yes, Worldcoin is now scanning the irises of humans world over. The purpose? To connect (and collect the data of) would-be crypto investors, so that they can be inducted into the totally anonymous crypto-bro ingroup that Worldcoin is offering. As well as provide a platform for "global proof‑of‑personhood" in a world consumed ever more by AI.

Which doesn't sound anything close to a Torment Nexus moment.

"World ID is a new privacy-first decentralized identity protocol", the site notes. "It enables seamless sign in to websites, mobile apps and crypto dapps, while proving you’re a unique and real person without sharing personal data like names, emails, etc."

Worldcoin is offering $50 in crypto to get your iris scanned at Orb popups appearing in stores all over the world. Along with it, the promise of an anonymized world identity ID. And hundreds of people are lining up to do so, despite immediate reservations one might have over the irony of collecting personal data to keep your personal data safe.

The company is also offering commission to "Orb Operators" for every time they "get people excited about starting their crypto journey", and scan an iris into the totally-forever-secure database.

There are "2,198,745 unique humans on Worldcoin" right now, and growing, which speaks to the popularity of the endeavour. Though, as you might have expected, it's not going unnoticed by the law.

Meanwhile, Germany has been investigating Worldcoin's antics. The country's Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision has been keeping an eye on them since November last year, concerned over the processing of "sensitive data at a very large scale", as the president of said state regulator, Michael Will, told Reuters in a recent email.

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

The country's Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) is also closely monitoring the company, according to news outlet Handelsblatt's Silicon Valley correspondent, Stephen Scheuer, as "It is not clear if Worldcoin has complied with all laws and rules with the launch" of the Worldcoin cryptocurrency (machine translated). 

Apparently, the company also does not have any kind of licence to support the project. Which bodes well...

And it's not just German officials with their eye on Sam Altman's machinations. Reuters also cites a spokesperson from the UK's Information Commissioner's Office, who told them "We note the launch of WorldCoin in the UK and will be making further enquiries".

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.