You surely have heard of Worldcoin 👁️, a human verification project based on biometric data and cryptography.
With the $WLD coin launch this Monday, it now added blockchain to the mix.
Worldcoin is bold, controversial, and important to understand. Here are the main points ⬇️
As traditional markers of human behavior can now be replicated by a well-programmed AI, we can very soon find our online life disrupted, and not in a good way: social media filled with fake accounts, automated scammers, applications regularly targeted by Sybil attacks…
It is crucial to create a global “proof of personhood” system, and one of the most radical solutions is offered by Worldcoin, a startup led by Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI.
People can receive their unique World ID by scheduling a visit to a hardware device called the Orb and scanning their retina. This data is used to generate an “IrisHash”.
According to the company, biometric data is deleted as soon as IrisHash is created, and a zero-knowledge proof is used for privacy protection.
Verified people can set up their wallets and receive some $WLD as a reward for their participation. This token could then be used to interact with web3 and, according to Worldcoin execs, even somehow establish the basis for a universal basic income, although this last point is very vague.
As pointed out by Vitalik Buterin, the Orb, like any hardware device, can be injected with malware, which would misuse people’s data or create fake identities. Worldcoin’s operations being centralized, people cannot verify either the Orb’s security or the overall data transmission system’s.
Out of 10 billion $WLD, a little over 100 million was released on Monday. Such a small circulating supply reminded some crypto market analysts of pumping schemes: when true price discovery is impossible, markets are extremely prone to speculation.
Together with an uncertain utility and high concentration (62% of tokens belong to one address), this makes for sketchy tokenomics.
As per the company’s website, Worldcoin now counts over 2 million Orb-verified users.
A year ago, MIT Technology Review harshly criticized the company’s onboarding methods, accusing it of targeting mainly poor populations in Africa and Asia, who shared their data without informed consent.
Another issue with onboarding was spotted by Vitalik: with a proprietary hardware device needed for signing up, the project cannot really scale. There are now 1,500 Orbs available in 35 cities, but even with a much bigger number, it would be almost impossible to get an Orb to every person on the planet.
To sum up, for a project that involves such a delicate issue as biometric data collection, Worldcoin has so far failed to show enough transparency.
However, a world without proof of personhood also has dangers, and it is better to start testing solutions now.