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Portugal demands Sam Altman's Worldcoin to discontinue data collecting

People line to utilize WorldCoin's iris-scanners in Madrid, Spain, March 6, 2024.

LONDON, March 26 (mod1s) - Portugal's data authority has ordered Sam Altman's iris-scanning initiative Worldcoin to cease collecting biometric data for 90 days, it announced on Tuesday, in the latest regulatory blow to a business that has generated privacy concerns in various nations.

Worldcoin promotes users to get their faces scanned by its "orb" devices, in return for a digital ID and free bitcoin. More than 4.5 million individuals in 120 countries have joined up, according to Worldcoin's website.

Portugal's data regulator, the CNPD, stated there was a significant danger to people' data protection rights, which demanded prompt action to avert severe damage. More than 300,000 individuals in Portugal have submitted Worldcoin with their biometric data, the CNPD stated.

The regulator said it has received dozens of complaints in the previous month concerning illegal gathering of data from minors, "deficiencies in the information provided to the data subjects" and "the impossibility of erasing the data or withdrawing consent."

Jannick Preiwisch, data protection officer at the Worldcoin Foundation claimed Worldcoin was "fully compliant with all laws and regulations governing the collection and transfer of biometric data".

"The report from CNPD is the first time we are hearing from them regarding many of these matters, including reports of underage sign-ups in Portugal, for which we have zero tolerance for and are working to address in all instances, even if a matter of a few reports," Preiwisch said in an emailed statement.

Worldcoin also announced that the corporation in March initiated a transition to "Personal Custody" which would allow consumers authority over their data, including deletion and any future usage.

The CNPD said the decision to suspend data gathering was temporary while it carried out more due diligence and evaluated allegations during an investigation.


Worldcoin claims it seeks to develop a "identity and financial network", which Altman argues will be vital for individuals to verify that they are human in a future ruled by artificial intelligence. Altman is CEO of OpenAI as well as co-founder of the firm behind Worldcoin.

Worldcoin is under investigation in many countries and has garnered criticism from privacy advocates over the gathering of personal data.

UK privacy campaign organization Big Brother Watch claimed following Worldcoin's introduction there was a possibility biometric data might be hijacked or misused, with senior advocacy manager Madeleine Stone adding that digital ID systems "rarely live up to the extraordinary benefits technocrats tend to attribute to them".

Spain's data protection agency placed a three-month ban on Worldcoin, in response to concerns, earlier this month. Kenya stopped Worldcoin's activity in August.

The Bavarian state regulator has indicated it is the principal authority examining Worldcoin under the European Union's data protection regulations since Tools For Humanity, the firm behind Worldcoin, has a German unit there.

The CNPD's suspension refers instead to the Worldcoin Foundation - a Cayman Islands corporation characterized on its website as "memberless", having no owners or shareholders. The Worldcoin Foundation's website states it is the sole member and director of a British Virgin Islands firm named World Assets Ltd, which is responsible for issuing the Worldcoin tokens distributed to anyone who join up.

The CNPD explained that its judgment was directed to the Worldcoin Foundation since that institution is the data controller for the biometric data.

Worldcoin is funded by some of the most notable venture capital brands, including a16z crypto and Bain Capital Crypto.


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