Hong Kong Orders Worldcoin to Halt Iris Biometric Data Collection

Hong Kong Orders Worldcoin to Halt Iris Biometric Data Collection

Hong Kong’s privacy regulator, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), has ordered Worldcoin to cease collecting biometric data within the city. The enforcement notice, issued on May 22, directs Worldcoin Foundation to stop scanning and collecting iris and face images from the public.

The PCPD has been scrutinizing Worldcoin due to potential privacy risks. An investigation launched in January 2024 revealed that Worldcoin’s practices might have violated the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO). Worldcoin collects participants’ faces and irises to verify identities and distribute free WLD tokens. However, the PCPD found these practices to be excessive and unnecessary.

The regulator criticized Worldcoin’s data collection methods as unfair, noting that essential information about the process and associated risks was not available in Chinese, the primary language for many participants. Additionally, the data retention period of ten years was deemed too long by the PCPD. Participants were not adequately informed about their rights or the purpose of data collection, and no age verification was conducted before scanning.

The PCPD concluded that Worldcoin failed to provide sufficient information for participants to make an informed choice or give genuine consent, labeling the data collection as unfair.

In addition to halting operations, the PCPD urged the public to report any activity involving iris or face scans. This action follows similar measures taken by regulators in Spain, Portugal, and Buenos Aires.

Despite these regulatory challenges, Worldcoin’s user base has continued to grow, with the World App wallet reaching 10 million users in less than a year. The project has made efforts to enhance user data privacy and comply with regulations, including open-sourcing their ORB technology and introducing new features for user data control as announced by co-founder Alex Blania in March.

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