The UK data watchdog is investigating a cryptocurrency scheme started by OpenAI boss Sam Altman that offered digital coins in exchange for eye scans.
This is after the billionaire entrepreneur whose artificial intelligence company creation Chat GPTOn Monday, Help launched Worldcoin in cities around the world.
The program gives people the chance to gaze at a silver orb (iris scan required) for free tokens.
Mr Altman Describing it as a “global financial and identity network based on proof of personality”, he said it would be “particularly important in the age of artificial intelligence”.
But it has been criticized as dystopian and poses a potential security risk.
The Information Commissioner’s Office, which upholds UK data privacy rights, said it would review the business.
“We are aware of the Worldcoin launch in the UK and will be making further inquiries,” a spokesperson added.
What is Worldcoin and how does it work?
The project is positioned as a digital recognition method that can help distinguish humans from online artificial intelligence.
It’s the work of a company called Tools For Humanity, co-founded by Mr. Altman and Alex Blania.
Before its launch, it attracted 2 million registered users.
London was one of the cities to host an eye-scanning site on Monday, with people queuing up to view a sphere.
Once a person’s iris is verified as human and not yet registered, they are assigned a “World ID” on the Worldcoin smartphone app and earn a small amount of cryptocurrency Called WLD.
The so-called “orbing” process is being deployed in 35 cities in 20 countries, but not in the United States, where regulatory concerns have held back the currency’s launch.
People can find their nearest pop-up on the Worldcoin website, which features all three UK locations London.
Why would anyone want this?
Mr Altman said the project would help humanity stay alive in an economy reshaped by artificial intelligence.
Not only does it help distinguish people from machines, but he believes it can help their financial health in the real world as technology takes on “more and more jobs”.
He told Reuters in an interview that the system could be used to verify who is eligible for benefits and reduce fraud.
“We need to start trying things so we can figure out what to do,” he added.
It can also be used as voter ID in elections, the Worldcoin website says.
Who is the AI powerhouse Sam Altman?
How safe is it?
Privacy and security are two major concerns surrounding Worldcoin.
Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of the encryption platform Ethereum, said that iris scanning may reveal personal information such as medical conditions, and the iris itself may not be safe.
Anyone can apply to become a “sphere operator” on the Worldcoin website.
Those who are approved will receive basic training and be sent a ball.
“We were unable to verify that it was constructed correctly and that it did not have a backdoor,” Mr Buterin said.
Users’ phones could also be hacked, putting their World IDs at risk, he added, saying that with just 1,500 orbs in circulation and many people in underdeveloped countries without smartphones, billions would be cut off.
WorldCoin chief executive Mr Brania said the blockchain – the online database that records cryptocurrency transactions – could store them securely and ensure that no single entity could shut them down.
Will it catch on?
The concept seems unlikely to appeal to anyone already skeptical about crypto, After the collapse of major platform FTX last year, the company faced stricter regulation in the UK.
Since then, there has been a crackdown on firms marketing crypto assets Initiated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Grzegorz Drozdz, an analyst at investment firm Conotoxia, said Worldcoin may also struggle to win true believers.
Gifting WLD tokens to anyone who enrolls, which the company hopes will help drive usage, will devalue the currency in the long run, he said.
“The price of cryptocurrencies is always determined by supply and demand,” he said, adding that WLD is unlikely to compete with established coins such as bitcoin or ethereum.
WLD peaked at $3.30 (£2.57) early Monday, according to market tracker CoinGecko.
It was trading at $2.01 (£1.57) on Tuesday morning.