Hong Kong authorities investigate Worldcoin over privacy concerns


Hong Kong’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) announced an investigation into identity verification project Worldcoin’s local operations, citing “serious risks to personal data privacy.”

In a Jan. 31 notice, the PCPD said it had executed warrants and entered six premises controlled by Worldcoin in Hong Kong as part of an investigation into the project. The commission requested documents and information and warned Hong Kong residents to consider how their biometric data could be used — Worldcoin employs iris-scanning orbs for users to verify their identity.

“The PCPD is concerned that the operation of Worldcoin in Hong Kong involves serious risks to personal data privacy, and believes that the collection and processing of sensitive personal data by the relevant organisation may be in contravention of the requirements of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance,” said the PCPD.

PCPD officials entering Worldcoin premises in Hong Kong. Source: PCPD

According to the PCPD, any personal data controlled by Worldcoin “must be collected for a lawful purpose” related to the project’s function or activity. The commission said that the information collected from users’ irises was “sensitive” according to regulatory guidelines.

Related: Can crypto Privacy Pools help balance privacy and regulation?

Worldcoin announced its start in 2021, with more than two million people signing up before the project’s official launch in July 2023. The project has drawn the attention of many countries’ regulators over privacy concerns, leading to suspending its services in Kenya and pausing iris scans in India.

According to Worldcoin, more than five million people have created accounts using their identity as of December 2023. Cointelegraph reached out to Worldcoin for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

Magazine: ‘Moral responsibility’: Can blockchain really improve trust in AI?