Spain Temporarily Bans Worldcoin Eyeball Scans Over Privacy

worldcoin, cryptocurrency, biometrics

Privacy watchdog in Spain orders Worldcoin to halt eyeball scans to make digital IDs in exchange for crypto

Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency project co-founded by OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman, continues to run into privacy issues regarding its iris-scanning data collection scheme.

Spain’s privacy watchdog AEPD has ordered for Worldcoin to immediately cease collecting personal information, and stop using data it has already gathered, for a period of up to three months.

Spain is not the only country to take this action. In August last year Kenya banned Worldcoin from recruiting new customers, amid concerns over its data privacy and security regarding the biometric scanning, although operations in that country are reportedly set to resume.

worldcoin, cryptocurrency, biometrics
Image credit: Worldcoin

Spanish order

Spain’s AEPD has this week said that it “requires the cessation of the collection and processing of special categories of personal data as well as the blocking of data already collected.”

The privacy watchdog said it has received several complaints denouncing insufficient information, collection of data from minors and preventing the withdrawal of consent, among other infringements.

“This decision is based on exceptional circumstances, where it is necessary to adopt precautionary measures aimed at the immediate cessation of the processing activities to prevent the possible transfer of data to third parties and to safeguard the fundamental right to the protection of personal data,” the watchdog stated.

“The temporary prohibition of activity in Spain is valid for a maximum period of three months,” it said.

“The Spanish data protection authority (AEPD) is circumventing EU law with their actions today, which are limited to Spain and not the broader EU, and spreading inaccurate and misleading claims about our technology globally,” Jannick Preiwisch, Worldcoin’s data protection officer, told the Associated Press in a statement.

It is understood that Portugal, France and Germany are currently investigating whether Worldcoin’s activities comply with the GDPR.

In the United Kingdom, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office is also said to be interested in its data collection practices.

Unusual scheme

Worldcoin had officially launched in July 2023 with a highly unusual scheme.

The company’s main offering is a “World ID” that is backed by retinal scans carried out by a silver “orb” and which are designed to prove a user is human and not a bot.

worldcoin, cryptocurrency, biometrics
Image credit: Worldcoin

Users who take part in the scanning process are eligible to receive Worldcoin tokens, also known as WLD.

worldcoin, cryptocurrency, biometrics
Image credit: Worldcoin

The project is being carried out by a company called Tools for Humanity based in San Francisco and Berlin.

Worldcoin was reported to have approximately two million users.