Spain blocks iris-scanning crypto project Worldcoin over privacy concerns 

Sam Altman's controversial project 'urgently' suspended pending clarification on its legality

Orb, Worldcoin's biometric imaging device
Orb, Worldcoin's biometric imaging device / Worldcoin
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

March 6, 2024 02:53 PM

March 6, 2024 07:21 PM

The Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) has ordered Worldcoin to cease its activities in Spain due to privacy concerns.

The regulator has ordered a temporary suspension of six months, subject to possible extension, while it conducts an investigation to determine the legality of Worldcoin's data processing.

In response to the AEPD's decision, Jannick Preiwisch, Data Protection Officer of Tools for Humanity, the company behind Worldcoin, said that their "efforts to provide the AEPD with an accurate view of Worldcoin have gone unanswered for months."

"The AEPD is circumventing EU law with their actions today, which are limited to Spain and not the broader EU, and spreading inaccurate and misleading claims about our technology globally," he added.

Co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Worldcoin offers cryptocurrency in exchange for iris scans and has come under scrutiny in recent weeks as crowds lined up across Spain to have their eyes scanned. 

According to reports, more than 300,000 people have already had their irises scanned in Spain, and the Worldcoin app on the App Store has become the third most downloaded free app in the country. 

In recent weeks, thousands of people have lined up at Worldcoin's pop-up points in Barcelona, where the company moved its European production center last summer.

Ricardo Macieira, European director of Worldcoin, explained in February that once the iris is scanned, a personal and unique digital code is generated, and the biometric data is automatically erased

Macieira emphasized that the company "complies" with European Union data protection regulations and ensures that the person has "complete control" over their information, which they can delete at any time. 

However, the Catalan Data Protection Agency (APDCAT) warned of the risks of this initiative, saying that it involves the disclosure of personal data considered "highly sensitive," which allows for the unambiguous identification of a person through a physical characteristic that does not change throughout life.