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Hong Kong orders Worldcoin to stop collecting iris biometric data

Privacy watchdog deems Worldcoin's data collection in Hong Kong excessive, unnecessary, and unfair.

Hong Kong orders Worldcoin to stop collecting iris biometric data

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Hong Kong’s privacy watchdog has banned Worldcoin from collecting biometric data within its jurisdiction, according to a notice issued on May 22 by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD).

“The Privacy Commissioner has served an enforcement notice on Worldcoin Foundation, directing it to cease all operations of the Worldcoin project in Hong Kong in scanning and collecting iris and face images of members of the public using iris scanning devices,” the PCPD stated.

As reported, the PCPD has long been concerned about potential privacy risks associated with Worldcoin. In January 2024, the regulator launched an investigation to see if the project’s practices violated the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance (PDPO).

The investigation revealed that Worldcoin collected participants’ faces and irises through scanning to verify their identity and give them free WLD tokens. However, according to the PCPD, these practices were “excessive” and “unnecessary.”

The regulator also pointed out that Worldcoin’s data collection was unfair. Specifically, information about data collection and risks wasn’t available in Chinese, the primary language for many participants.

The PCPD claimed that Worldcoin would store user data for ten years, which the regulator considers “too long.”

Furthermore, participants weren’t adequately informed about their rights or the purpose of data collection. Worldcoin didn’t conduct age verification before scanning.

“Overall speaking, Worldcoin failed to provide adequate information to participants to enable them to make an informed choice or give a real consent. The PCPD considered that the collection of face and iris images under the above circumstances constituted an unfair collection,” the PCPD noted.

In addition to the request to stop operating in the country, the privacy watchdog advised the public to report any activity involving iris or face scans.

This enforcement is part of a broader trend, with Spain, Portugal, and Buenos Aires taking similar actions against the crypto project.

Despite ongoing regulatory challenges, Worldcoin’s user base continues to grow, with its World App wallet reaching 10 million users in less than a year.

The project itself has made several efforts to ensure user data privacy and comply with regulations. In March, Worldcoin’s co-founder Alex Blania announced the open-sourcing of their ORB technology and new features for user data control.

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