Worldcoin May Have a Biometric Data Black Market Problem

By Masha Borak

Worldcoin, the digital identity and financial services crypto project that verifies people by scanning their irises, has found itself amid controversy after reports alleging that fraudsters are buying iris scans from the black market to register on the platform.

The project, which is headed by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, is currently preparing to launch and has been registering users across the world with the help of its physical imaging device called the Orb. The project aims to give everyone on the planet some of its Worldcoin crypto token after registration while their accounts are anonymized.

The lure of free crypto that may be exchanged for real money in the future seems to have been too strong for some people. According to Chinese blockchain-focused outlet Blockbeat, fraudsters have been offering iris scans from Know Your Customer (KYC) merchants in Cambodia for less than $30. Other iris scan may come from African countries such as Kenya.

Blockbeat did not clarify whether the back market iris scans were genuine or whether they were successfully used for registration for Worldcoin.

In response to Gizmodo, Worldcoin said that the platform did not have an issue with iris scans on the black market but it did detect several hundred cases of fraud involving its digital passport World ID, the verification protocol used to determine real identities. The World IDs are being sent to a third-party World app on the black market. The company claims it has taken steps to increase security and create a new recovery process for users’ World ID.

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This is not the first time Worldcoin has been hit by security concerns with a recent report from Techcrunch claiming that hackers were able to install password-collecting malware onto the devices of WorldCoin operators, who manage the company’s biometric devices.

Inspired by the Universal Basic Income concept, Worldcoin was proposed by Altman in 2019 who aimed to send free currency Worldcoin to achieve a fair distribution of wealth.

The World ID is not meant to prove who the person is, it is meant to confirm that the user is indeed human. To ensure that the crypto finds its way to real people, Worldcoin’s Orb devices create a hash of the irises which checks it against a central database to ensure there are no duplicates, i.e. that the same person is not registering twice.

According to its own data, the World ID product has collected 1.7 million biometric credentials. In May, the platform launched the World App as part of its “proof of personhood” strategy, with 1.5 million people joining the pre-release and more than half a million using it every month.

The firm is reportedly nearing a $100 million funding round and plans to go public later in the year.

Source: Biometric Update

Masha Borak is a technology journalist. Her work has appeared in Wired, Business Insider, Rest of World, and other media outlets. Previously she reported for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Reach out to her on LinkedIn.

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