Germany's financial regulator, BaFin, has initiated an investigation into Worldcoin, a digital currency project co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.
The probe comes after the digital currency's launch on July 24, raising concerns about the company's licensing on the German market.
A BaFin spokeswoman informed Handelsblatt about the ongoing investigation but refrained from delving into specific details. "If a company approaches the German market without the necessary permit, such as offering a website or app in German, we will pursue it," she remarked. It remains ambiguous, however, whether Worldcoin needed a license before its launch.
Worldcoin's innovative yet controversial approach involves using metallic orbs to scan users' irises. The overarching goal, according to Altman and co-founder Alex Blania, is to offer a definitive solution for online identity verification amid an internet brimming with scams, bots and potential AI imposters.By distinguishing between humans and AI, the project envisions a safer digital landscape. However, concerns have risen, especially from privacy experts, regarding Worldcoin's collection and protection of biometric data.
In addition to Germany, Worldcoin has faced scrutiny from the French data protection agency, the Commission Nationale Informatique & Libertés (CNIL). The CNIL is questioning the legality of Worldcoin's data collection methods and storage conditions for biometric data.
Moreover, Worldcoin might also face inquiries from data regulators in the United Kingdom, increasing international pressure on the cryptocurrency project.
Worldcoin, while marred in controversy, has garnered a vast user base with over two million people registered for World IDs. Motivation ranges from curiosity to financial incentives, with the company offering its own crypto token, WLD, as an enticement for those willing to partake in iris scanning.