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Hong Kong Halts Sam Altman Founded Worldcoin’s Operations Over Privacy Concerns

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Source: UnspalshAmidst the growing concerns around privacy rights, Hong Kong’s data protection authority has ordered the crypto project Worldcoin – co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Alex Blania and Max Novenstern – to cease its operations in the city, on 22 May 2024.

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the directive comes after the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) found that Worldcoin’s practice of collecting biometric data, including face and iris scans, from users violated local privacy laws. 

Worldcoin was founded with a mission to create a unique digital identity for every human on Earth. However, PCPD’s investigation revealed that the extent of data collection by Worldcoin was both “unnecessary and excessive” and raised very serious privacy concerns.

Controversy Around Worldcoin’s Biometric Data Collection Methods 

The PCPD has openly criticized Worldcoin’s data retention policy, which allowed the company to keep personal data for up to 10 years. 

Privacy Commissioner Ada Chung said that the crypto group’s operation breached the provisions on data collection, retention, transparency, access, and correction rights stated in the Personal Data Ordinance. 

Apparently, to participate, the Worldcoin users were required to undergo a scanning process that captured detailed images of their iris and faces. This data was purportedly collected to train artificial intelligence models on user verification processes. 

However, the PCPD’s findings highlighted several alarming practices, including the lack of transparency and informed consent from participants. During covert visits to six premises associated with Worldcoin, the watchdog discovered that privacy notices and biometric data consent forms were not available in Chinese, and staff failed to adequately explain the documents or confirm participants understanding. 

While Worldcoin needs to reassess its data collection and retention practices to align with Hong Kong’s privacy laws, this incident serves as a cautionary tale for the crypto and tech industries at large. 

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Disclaimer: Crypto is a high-risk asset class. This article is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute investment advice. You could lose all of your capital.

Akriti Seth is a Zurich-based Business Journalist and Crypto Editor. Her passion for journalism has taken her across the globe – from thriving as an on-television correspondent to writing engaging articles, she has worked for companies like Informa UK, Bloomberg TV India, CNA Singapore. Akriti’s interest in the cryptocurrency space stems from her writing for Crypto Council for Innovation and Daily Coin. She believes that decentralisation technology has the potential to empower marginalised communities across the world. Entrepreneur Magazine, Hindustan Times, Tech Panda, Hackernoon and other publications have featured Akriti’s writings.

View all Posts by Akriti Seth

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