HomeTechSam Altman's iris-scanning Worldcoin temporarily banned in Spain

Sam Altman’s iris-scanning Worldcoin temporarily banned in Spain


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MADRID (Reuters) -Spain has banned Sam Altman’s Worldcoin for up to three months amid perceived privacy risks from the venture which scans irises in exchange for a digital ID and free cryptocurrency.

Spanish data protection regulator AEPD said on Wednesday it demanded Worldcoin immediately cease the collection of personal information and stop using data it has already gathered.

The AEPD’s move came after several complaints regarding insufficient information, the collection of data from minors or withdrawal of consent is not allowed, the agency said.

Worldcoin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Spanish move. It has previously said that the biometric data is either deleted or stored in encrypted form, and that it is “committed” to working with regulators.

The Spanish regulator said the processing of biometric data, which has special protection under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), “entails high risks for people’s rights, taking into account their sensitive nature”.

It said in a statement that urgent measures temporarily prohibiting Worldcoin’s activities were justified “in order to avoid potentially irreparable damage”, adding that not acting would deprive people of the protection they are entitled to.

Neighbouring Portugal’s data authority said it was liaising with its counterpart in the German state of Bavaria while it analysed whether Worldcoin’s data processing complied with GDPR and said it was speaking with companies involved in the project.

More than 4 million people in 120 countries have signed up to have their irises scanned by Worldcoin’s “orb” devices, according to its website. But the project has drawn criticism from privacy campaigners from Argentina to Germany over the collection, storage and use of personal data.

Altman says its ID will allow users to, among other things, prove online that they are human, notably in a future world dominated by artificial intelligence.

Worldcoin is backed by some of the most prominent venture capital names, including a16z crypto and Bain Capital Crypto.

(Reporting by Jaspreet Singh and Niket Nishant in Bengaluru, David Latona in Madrid and Patricia Rua in Lisbon; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar, Sriraj Kalluvila and Alexander Smith)

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