Hong Kong Suspends Worldcoin Over Data Privacy Concerns

Hong Kong Suspends Worldcoin Over Data Privacy Concerns

In an official announcement by the Hong Kong Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), the regulators demanded that Worldcoin cease operation in the region. The announcement came months after the PCPD conducted an extensive investigation to assess whether the operation of Worldcoin conformed with the law. 

The regulators noted that the Worldcoin operations in Hong Kong were against the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO). The PDPO requirement tasks individuals and businesses to safeguard user data from external misuse. 

Worldcoin Suspend Operation in Hong Kong

An announcement conveyed by PCPD commissioner Ada Chung Lai-Ling reveals that Hong Kong has issued an enforcement notice demanding Worldcoin suspend operations in the region immediately. 

The notice instructed Worldcoin to cease scanning and collecting human iris in Hong Kong. The decision to halt the Worldcoin operation in Hong Kong was derived from an investigation report by PCPD.

In January, the PCPD, in partnership with other law enforcers, conducted a thorough investigation on Worldcoin. The recently completed investigations was to assess whether the Worldcoin identity verification process threatens the public. 

The regulators suspected the Worldcoin activities violated the existing PDPO requirements and breached data privacy. The investigation involved visiting Worldcoin offices in Hong Kong to examine the compliance level of the identity verification process.

From December last year to early January, the probing team had visited the Worldcoin project nearly ten times. To ensure that the data collected was reliable, the PCPD utilized different research methods to examine Worldcoin’s conformity with the existing regulations. 

Regulators Probe Worldcoin Operations

The PCPD noted that capturing individual face images was unnecessary for identity verification. Initially, the Worldcoin project aimed at differentiating humans from bots using an advanced iris-scanning device called Orbs.

The applicants were required to complete a registration process that involved scanning the eyeballs. After eye iris scanning, the applicant was issued a unique digital identity and rewarded with Worldcoin native tokens (WLD) for participating in the exercise. 

The PCPD observed that despite Worldcoin proving its legality, the collection of face images was not crucial since the information on the Orbs was adequate to verify humans from artificial intelligence bots. 

Upon contacting Worldcoin for regulatory inquiry, the PCPD claimed that the Tools of Humanity failed to provide adequate information about the user. The regulators argued that the information provided by Worldcoin did not show that the applicant gave genuine consent or reached an informed decision. 

The probing team added that the Worldcoin privacy statement was drafted in English. This prevented the non-English speakers from understanding the Worldcoin policy, practices, and terms and conditions. 

Worldcoin Facing Legal Charges

Moreover, the PCPD claimed that the Worldcoin official operating in Hong Kong failed to offer non-English speakers the necessary information concerning the project. The regulators regretted that most of the users of the Worldcoin project did not understand the project. 

The PCPD blamed the Worldcoin officials for failing to educate the applicant on the risk related to their disclosure of biometric information. The investigation demonstrated that the Worldcoin operation in Hong Kong was illegal and exposed the public to unfair practices. 

The PCPD noted that Worldcoin violated the existing data protection laws. The non-compliance of Worldcoin forced the PCPD to order the suspension of the collection of biometric data, including face images and iris scans.  

The ban came at a time when around 8300 individuals had registered for the Worldcoin project in Hong Kong. The Worldcoin project was first launched in 2021 to differentiate humans from bots. 

Worldcoin currently has over two million global users. The growing popularity of Worldcoin grabbed the attention of global regulators due to privacy concerns. Worldcoin project has faced heightened regulatory scrutiny and has been banned in Kenya, Spain, and Portugal.

The Worldcoin project has been accused of collecting biometric data from minors and lacks adequate data protection standards. The legal charges facing Worldcoin forced the Tools of Humanity to invest in strengthening its data protection protocols.

Editorial credit: rafapress / Shutterstock.com

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Kenneth Eisenberg
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Kenneth Eisenberg

Kenneth Eisenberg, a formidable voice in crypto journalism, crafts insightful pieces on blockchain's ever-evolving landscape. Merging deep knowledge with articulate prose, Kenneth's articles cut through the noise, offering readers clear, in-depth perspectives. As the digital currency world grows, Kenneth remains a beacon of expertise and clarity.

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