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WorldCoin: Are You Selling Your Bio Data Too Cheap?

WorldCoin: Are You Selling Your Bio Data Too Cheap?


Built on the Ethereum blockchain, the Wolrdcoin protocol tries to offer a decentralized and secure digital identity system that can be used in various sectors including government and finance.

The Worldcoin Token was released just recently on the 24th of July, 2023. The much-anticipated crypto project saw significant growth over the first few hours, with its price increasing as high as $3.58 but it has lost its value ever since.

Almost 10 days before its initial launch, Worldcoin announced in a blog post that it has surpassed 2 million World ID sign-ups, which is a significant number, considering the project is still in its Beta phase.

WorldCoin: Sign Up

The process of securing a World ID is quite straightforward:

  1. You download the World App on your mobile device and sign up.
  2. Based on your location, you will be able to see the nearest Orb to you, a device that will take your biometrics including your iris patterns.
  3. After it’s verified you don’t have a World ID already and are a human, your World ID will be issued and you may receive up to 25 WLD tokens as the reward for being just human! Although there may be a catch…

WorldCoin: Controversies

Worldcoin has raised significant concerns over privacy, security, centralization, and ethics.

In April 2022, The MIT Technology Review platform published a piece on how Worldcoin has recruited more than half a million users by handing over money and exploiting the poor and unprivileged residents in rural regions in developing countries.

Many are also concerned about the project amid its connections to Sam Bankman-Fried, the notorious CEO and founder of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX as he was among the investors of the project back in October 2021.

The privacy aspect of the project is another aspect that is making quite some noise. Vitalik Buterin, the brilliant computer scientist and the founder of the Ethereum blockchain, discusses this issue in depth in his blog post along with three other concerns he believes the Worlcoin project has raised.

To summarize, Vitalik describes how the iris biometric data is hashed in the Orb itself and only these hashes are stored on the Worldcoin servers, making them private enough. These servers

will be decentralized quite soon and the governance system of the platform will follow shortly after, integrating the DAO governance model.

The main remaining issue here, though, is the Orb itself. The Orb is a customized biometric device, designed, prototyped, and created by the Worldcoin team. Even if we consider the design flawless and remove any possibility of the misconduct of Worldcoin’s higher-level actors, there may still be a chance that the manufacturer may produce faulty devices either intentionally or by mistake.

Therefore, the hardware centralization issue of Worldcoin remains one of the main concerning factors. Worldcoin is suggesting regular audits on Orbs to ensure they are meeting the specifications and are secure.

Another solution would be to have “World IDs registered with different Orb manufacturers, and ideally with different Orbs, should be distinguishable from each other”. In this way, a dishonest Orb operator can be blacklisted with all the World IDs associated with it removed or restricted. This would address the low “Robustness of Decentralization” issue seen in specialized hardware biometrics.

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