LONDON (Reuters) – France’s privacy watchdog CNIL said on Friday it is aware of ChatGPT-founder Sam Altman’s Worldcoin project and that the legality of its biometric data collection “seems questionable”.
Worldcoin, which launched on Monday, requires users to provide their iris scans in exchange for a digital ID and in certain countries free cryptocurrency. Its website says it has signed up 2.1 million people, mostly in a trial over the last two years.
Worldcoin has set up sign-up sites in various locations around the world, where people can get their faces scanned by a shiny spherical “orb”.
Britain’s data regulator said this week it will make enquiries about Worldcoin following its launch.
CNIL, the French watchdog, said in response to a Reuters question on Worldcoin “The legality of this collection seems questionable, as do the conditions for storing biometric data.”
The CNIL’s email response to Reuters said it had initiated investigations, which revealed that the Bavarian state authority in Germany has jurisdiction. The Bavarian authority has since been conducting the investigation, with support from the CNIL, the watchdog added.
Worldcoin was “designed to protect individual privacy and has built a robust privacy program” and is committed to ensuring it meets regulatory requirements, the Worldcoin Foundation said via email.
The Worldcoin Foundation is a Cayman Islands-based entity which describes itself as a “steward of the Worldcoin protocol”.
“The Worldcoin Foundation complies with all laws and regulations governing the processing of personal data in the markets where Worldcoin is available,” it said.
The project is supervised in the European Union by the Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision, the Worldcoin Foundation said.
“The project will continue to cooperate with governing bodies on requests for more information about its privacy and data protection practices,” it added.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft; Editing by Amanda Cooper, Jane Merriman and Louise Heavens)
WorldCoin’s iris-scanning device is seen at a sign-up site in Shoreditch, East London, Britain July 24, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Howcroft/File photo