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Hong Kong bans Worldcoin’s data collection over alleged privacy violations

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Hong Kong’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) has prohibited Worldcoin from collecting data in the region due to privacy violation concerns, according to a May 22 notice.

The privacy regulator alleged that Worldcoin collected iris and facial images from 8,302 residents using an iris-scanning device. This data collection aimed to verify user identity and generate iris codes in exchange for WLD tokens. Worldcoin has repeatedly affirmed that biometric data is hashed, meaning no images of Iris scans are stored. However, its terms and conditions do assert that users can ‘opt-in’ to share Iris images to help Worldcoin improve its system.

These actions, according to the regulator, were in violation of local privacy laws. It stated:

“The PCPD considered that the face and iris images collected by the Worldcoin project were unnecessary and excessive, contravening the requirements of DPP.”

Furthermore, the regulator criticized Worldcoin for not providing sufficient information to users, which impeded informed consent. The investigation noted that Worldcoin’s privacy notice was not available in Chinese, making it inaccessible to non-English speaking participants. The PCPD added:

“The Privacy Notice at the material time was not available in Chinese. The PCPD was of the view that participants using Chinese as native language would not be able to clearly understand the relevant policies and practices, terms and conditions of the Worldcoin project, and hence there was a lack of transparency.”

Notably, this enforcement action against Worldcoin aligns with recent measures taken by other countries. Spain, Portugal, and Buenos Aires in Argentina have also acted against the crypto project for similar privacy violations.

However, despite these regulatory hurdles across various borders, Wordlcoin adoption continues to soar. In April, World App, the first native wallet for the crypto project, reached 10 million users in less than 12 months of its launch.

Improving privacy

Worldcoin has recently garnered praise for its data privacy efforts, including commendations from Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin.

In March, co-founder Alex Blania announced that Worldcoin had open-sourced the core software of its ORB technology. This move was paired with the introduction of new features that empower users to control their data usage.

Blania also highlighted Worldcoin’s dedication to working with regulators to enhance their operations.

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