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Trading Biometrics for Crypto: Fair Trade or Privacy Nightmare?

We look at the controversial launch of Worldcoin's WLD token, where biometric data is traded for potential airdrops. Also, Japan looks to a Web3 future, plus we get a peek into Terra founder Do Kwon's crypto wallet.

July 25, 2023

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In a world where data is the new oil, Worldcoin is offering a unique proposition: trade your biometric data for an airdrop of their new WLD token. The project, co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, has launched its token, aiming to distribute it to over 2 million people globally who have verified their identities via iris-scanning orbs. The ambitious project has been met with a mix of intrigue and concern, with critics questioning the privacy implications of such a trade-off.

Worldcoin's mission is to enable people to prove their identities online with credentials verified in person.

According to Tools for Humanity, the company behind the project, the project’s core offering is its World ID, an account that only real humans can get. To get a World ID, a customer signs up to do an in-person iris scan using Worldcoin's "orb," a silver ball approximately the size of a bowling ball. Once the orb's iris scan verifies the person is a real human, it creates a World ID.

The project plans to deploy orbs in over 35 cities across 20 countries to accelerate user sign-ups and increase the number of orbs from 200 to around 1,500 by the end of the year.

Here in Singapore, there are currently two orbs in the CBD, at Vega Solutions and OGBC. A company representative told Blockhead that the "response has been great" and a "good number of people" are making appointments for verification. Those verified by an orb will initially receive 25 WLD tokens and periodic grants going forward.

The project's launch follows Worldcoin's migration to the OP Mainnet, an Ethereum Layer 2 scaling solution, last week. It will distribute a total supply of 10 billion WLD tokens, with 80% reserved for users, operators, and the ecosystem. The remaining 20% is set aside for the Worldcoin team and its backers.

However, Ethereum's founder, Vitalik Buterin, has expressed concerns over the project. In a blog post, he questioned the ethics of trading biometric data for potential financial gain and the potential for misuse of such data. Buterin's concerns echo those of many in the crypto community, who worry about the privacy implications of Worldcoin's model.

Worldcoin's WLD token surged 88% on its debut on Monday and reached $3.14, following listings on exchanges like Binance, Huobi, Bybit and OKX. The tokens have since falled to around $2, with a fully diluted valuation of almost $20 billion.


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