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Portugal Halts Sam Altman’s Worldcoin Biometric Data Collection Amid Privacy Concerns

 |  March 26, 2024

Portugal’s data protection authority has ordered a temporary halt to Worldcoin’s iris-scanning project, led by tech entrepreneur Sam Altman. The directive, issued on Tuesday, mandates a cessation of biometric data collection for a duration of 90 days. This development marks the latest setback for Worldcoin, which has faced scrutiny over its privacy practices across various jurisdictions.

Worldcoin’s initiative revolves around enticing individuals to undergo facial scans using its “orb” devices. In return, participants receive a digital identity and complimentary cryptocurrency. With purported participation exceeding 4.5 million individuals spanning 120 countries, Worldcoin’s approach has triggered concerns about data privacy and security.

The Portuguese data regulator, known as the CNPD, emphasized the imperative nature of safeguarding citizens’ data protection rights. Citing a substantial risk to privacy, the CNPD justified its swift intervention to forestall potential harm. Notably, over 300,000 Portuguese citizens have furnished their biometric data to Worldcoin, underscoring the scale of the issue within the country.

The regulatory authority disclosed receiving numerous grievances over the past month, ranging from unauthorized data collection from minors to lapses in informing data subjects adequately. Critically, concerns were raised regarding the inability to delete data or revoke consent. Jannick Preiwisch, the data protection officer at the Worldcoin Foundation, asserted the project’s adherence to legal statutes governing biometric data collection and transfer.

However, the CNPD’s findings cast doubt on Worldcoin’s assertions. Addressing the regulator’s concerns, Preiwisch acknowledged the communication from CNPD as the first official notification regarding several issues, including reports of underage registrations in Portugal. He reaffirmed Worldcoin’s commitment to rectifying any discrepancies promptly.

“Even if a matter of a few reports, we have zero tolerance for underage sign-ups and are diligently working to address these instances,” Preiwisch stated in an email response.

The regulatory intervention in Portugal adds to the growing chorus of skepticism surrounding Worldcoin’s operations. As debates about the ethical ramifications of biometric data collection intensify globally, this episode underscores the necessity for robust oversight mechanisms to protect individuals’ privacy rights in the digital age.

Source: Reuters