Worldcoin’s Iris-Scanning Crypto Project: Too Good to Be True?


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What if we told you that all you need to do to get free money is to look into some enigmatic orb? Would you do it?

In March 2022, a funding round brought Worldcoin’s valuation to an eye-watering $3 billion. So, why are VCs pouring money into Worldcoin? And why does Worldcoins want people’s eyeballs? Well, it’s the million-dollar question! 

Seriously, WorldCoin wants to give everyone free crypto tokens like those you stash in your best cold crypto wallet in exchange for scanning their eyeballs. The project has garnered serious attention and has early investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, CoinBase Ventures, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and even the infamous SBF himself. And what about you? Have you been thinking about jumping on this bandwagon recently? If the answer is ‘yes,’ you should probably learn a little bit more about Worldcoin’s project.

Major Controversies around Worldcoin

Unsurprisingly, Worldcoin’s decision to create a global digital identity network using iris scans has raised a lot of eyebrows due to its uncanny similarity to what you’d see in a Black Mirror episode.

Just as Worldcoin was introduced back in October 2021, the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden slammed the use of iris scans. Although Worldcoin has promised that the iris scans would not be saved, Snowden pointed out that the hashcode produced by the scans themselves could still be saved and matched against other scans in the future. He also noted that the use of ZK-proof didn’t justify the use of biometrics for anti-fraud.

There is also some pushback from the crypto community. Some argued that the ability to use multiple accounts in Web3 for privacy is a feature not a flaw. And though most agreed that Web3 needs some additional protection against Sybil attacks, having 100% Sybil resistance was deemed unnecessary as long as there’s a dedicated method that can deter a large enough percentage of sybils.

Additionally, MIT Technology Review released a damning report last year against Worldcoin upon having investigated its field testing. According to the report, much of Worldcoin’s field testing is conducted in poorer developing countries such as Indonesia, Sudan, Kenya and other places where data privacy regulations are weaker and whose communities were the most financially impacted by the notorious pandemic.

The lengthy report revealed that the Orb operators were provided with limited information during recruitment other than being aware that their payment was based on the number of signups they achieved. Operators were then employing strategies such as hosting giveaways of cash and Airpods trying to encourage people to sign up while providing little information on Worldcoin’s campaigns as such.

On top of that, Worldcoin claimed that only an iris scan was needed for sign-ups. However, orb operators also requested their participant’s email addresses and phone numbers, which a Worldcoin representative denied as part of the data collection practice.

A black market for verified iris scans has even popped up in China where the Worldcoin app isn’t supposed to be available, though the Worldcoin team is attempting to contain the issue.

Furthermore, the project was found to have made contradictory claims with compliance with EU data regulations and was accused of lacking transparency in its data collection practices.

What Does the Future Hold?

It seems that currently, Worldcoin is neck-deep in controversies. Despite that, the project’s popularity isn’t going anywhere. It has received another $15 million in a series C funding round in June 2023, which is quite impressive given its ambiguous nature.

With the lashback the company is getting from its field testing and many wondering if Worldcoin is just a cover for mass media collection, it remains to be seen whether it can actually deliver on their promises. Will it save us from deep fakes and AIs taking our jobs? Or all they are doing is harvesting our eyeballs? Well, you should definitely chew on that.