Hong Kong privacy regulator orders halt on Worldcoin’s biometric data collection

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23rd May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong’s privacy regulator has instructed the Worldcoin Foundation, initiated by Sam Altman, to cease gathering face and iris scans, citing severe breaches of local data protection laws. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) disclosed findings from its investigation commenced in January, which revealed that the project’s activities in the city posed significant threats to personal data privacy.

The initiative, which had collected biometric data from over 8,300 individuals in Hong Kong, was found to be gathering “unnecessary and excessive” personal data, thus violating Data Protection Principles. This conclusion comes amidst Worldcoin’s global scrutiny, with several countries already banning its operations due to privacy concerns.

The project, which offers participants free Worldcoin cryptocurrency in exchange for their biometric data to create a “digital passport,” has been deemed to have failed in providing adequate transparency. Notably, essential documents were not available in Chinese, and the project did not sufficiently inform participants about the specifics of the data usage and the voluntary nature of their consent.

Moreover, the privacy watchdog criticized the prolonged retention period of up to 10 years for using the biometric data to train AI for user verification, branding it excessive. An enforcement notice has now been issued to the Worldcoin Foundation, demanding a complete cessation of biometric data collection activities in Hong Kong.