Hong Kong’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) has taken investigative actions against Worldcoin, a crypto project developed by Tools for Humanity. This move comes amid the “never-ending” concerns over the project’s handling of personal biometric data, specifically the scanning of users’ irises.
Navigating Legal And Ethical Boundaries
Earlier today, the PCPD investigated six Worldcoin facilities in Hong Kong, including Yau Ma Tei, Kwun Tong, Wan Chai, Cyberport, Central, and Causeway Bay. This operation was prompted by suspicions that Worldcoin’s activities could pose severe “risks to personal data privacy.”
The concern lies in Worldcoin’s method of acquiring user data, which scans individuals’ irises in exchange for tokens. This practice has been scrutinized and criticized, leading to the PCPD’s involvement.
The PCPD’s investigation also focuses on whether Worldcoin’s collection and processing of sensitive personal data comply with Hong Kong’s Personal Data Privacy Ordinance.
The privacy watchdog has expressed concern that the project’s handling of data might violate legal requirements. As a result, the PCPD has launched a formal investigation to safeguard the privacy of the public’s data.
Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Ada Chung Lai-ling issued a cautionary statement. She advised the public to safeguard their sensitive personal data vigilantly and to be wary of participating in activities that “arbitrarily” collect information, “such as iris scanning.”
Worldcoin Global Scrutiny And Market Impact
Worldcoin’s recent difficulties in Hong Kong are part of a broader narrative of regulatory challenges it faces globally. The project has been investigated in Britain, Germany, France, and other countries.
In addition, in October 2023, Worldcoin was shut down in Kenya following its suspension by the government over privacy concerns in August of the same year. Despite the initial suspension, the project maintained an online presence, accessible to Kenyan residents over the Internet.
However, the parliamentary panel in Kenya raised significant issues, including the absence of age-verification mechanisms and the controversial method of obtaining user consent through monetary rewards. These concerns culminated in a recommendation to the Communications Authority of Kenya to halt the project’s operations and disable its virtual platforms until “proper legal frameworks are established.”
Meanwhile, following the news of the Hong Kong investigation, the project’s native token, WLD, witnessed a significant price drop of nearly 10% in the past 24 hours. This market response is notable, considering the cryptocurrency had been on an upward trajectory, gaining 5.5% in the previous week.
Featured image from The Block, Chart from TradingView
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