Sam Altman’s Worldcoin promised them free cryptography for an eyeball scan. Now they feel robbed.

Blania described a futuristic world of globes of all shapes and sizes, where each person would be assigned a unique and anonymous code linked to their iris that they could use to log into a number of web and blockchain-based applications.

Blania did not rule out the possibility that Worldcoin would charge a fee to provide this service, but the startup primarily plans to make money through the appreciation of its currency. “You spread a token to as many people as you can,” Blania said. Because of that, “the utility of the token increases dramatically” and “the value of the token increases.”

The key to all this technology is Orb itself, and the contract signed by Orb’s operators underscores the company’s emphasis on stress testing. “Your job is to help us evaluate the orbs and how people interact with them,” the contract says. “You should think of yourself as a product tester.”

Blania told BuzzFeed News that the company is primarily using its field tests to see how the globes perform in different environments — from the heat of Kenya to the freezing cold of Norway. “In Kenya where it was like 40 degrees, and just the reflection of the globe is something we’ve never seen here in Germany in the office,” Blania said.

Adam Schwartz, a senior attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the ambiguity about Worldcoin’s goals is troubling. “The question is, is this a digital currency company or is this a data broker?” he said. “In any case, the current practice of paying people for their biometrics is very difficult for privacy and equality.

“Worldcoin is not a data company and our business model does not involve exploiting or selling personal user data. Worldcoin is only interested in user uniqueness i.e. that they have not registered for Worldcoin before – not their identity,” Worldcoin said in a statement.

The company’s efforts to build its database could also run afoul of data protection and data processing laws in Kenya, where the company has extensive operations. Kenya recently passed a data protection law that prohibits companies from transferring biometric data abroad without approval from the newly created Office of the Personal Data Protection Authority. Worldcoin currently processes user data in the US, UK, Germany, Japan and India, according to its data consent form.

Kenya’s Chief Data Officer Immaculate Kassait told BuzzFeed News that her office “was not aware” that Worldcoin was collecting the biometric data of Kenyans and transferring it abroad.

The company has until July 14 to register with the commission and submit a detailed data protection impact assessment under Kenya’s newly implemented data protection law, Kassait said in an email. Worldcoin told BuzzFeed News that the company would soon be involved with Kenya’s data commission and had already conducted a “rigorous” privacy impact assessment.

Bryan Ford, who directs the Decentralized/Distributed Systems (DEDIS) lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and wrote one of the pioneering proof-of-identity papers in 2008, said solving the authentication problem in a way that preserves user privacy is a significant step forward. Ford, however, is not convinced by Worldcoin’s solution. The company’s decision to build and store a huge, centralized database of irises and irises, he said, was a massive invasion of user privacy.

“We object to the description that collecting images of Worldcoin users is an invasion of privacy: If collecting images of people with their consent was an invasion of privacy, CLEAR” – the biometric authentication company – “UN and Aadhaar would all be examples of invasions. privacy as well,” Worldcoin said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.

Privacy advocates and security experts in India have long characterized Aadhaar, India’s large biometric identification system, as a privacy nightmare. Experts also debate whether Worldcoin has done enough to ensure it has obtained informed consent from people, given that the company’s extensive terms and conditions, privacy policy and data consent forms are in English.

“Informed consent means you’re in a position to fully understand what’s going on,” said Elias Okwara, Africa policy director for advocacy group Access Now, noting that the majority of Kenyans speak Kiswahili. “So right away it becomes difficult to be able to explain to a person what the data processing means.”

Worldcoin said it would soon publish its privacy policy in six languages ​​and suggested Orb operators were translating and explaining the company’s cumbersome policies to people who don’t speak English. “In all these local countries we have Orb operators and their whole purpose and role is to explain to people what they accept in their local languages,” the company said.

Any large biometric database is also susceptible to hacking, Ford said, explaining that the database could be compromised if someone hacks into the thousands of Orbs the company plans to distribute. “Fundamentally, no mechanism is reliably inoperable,” Ford said.

Blania admitted that “there has never been an uncracked hardware device” but said Worldcoin is building fraud detection systems to identify compromises.

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