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Worldcoin to make iris biometrics device design available to developers

But digital transaction platform has govt competition
Worldcoin to make iris biometrics device design available to developers
 

Worldcoin, the company that aims to enroll the whole world in its World ID digital identity service, is exploring the decentralization of its proprietary biometric device that people use to scan their irises in exchange for some of its crypto tokens.

Open-sourcing the Orb will be a big focus for the company in the next 12 months, Worldcoin co-founder Alex Blania told digital assets industry outlet The Block.

“You need other entities to essentially take the design of the Orb, build their own implementations of the Orb, and operate it,” says Blania. The other entities “can be really everything from small manufacturing companies to tech giants.”

The Orb was developed by a team at Tools for Humanity, the parent of Worldcoin. The engineers tested facial recognition, palm vein recognition and other prototypes before settling on iris scanning as the only option that was suitable for the scale of the project, according to Blania.

Worldcoin executives, who have enrolled more than 2 million people, want to scan the irises of all 8 billion people on Earth to verify their personhood. Their proof-of-personhood protocol can be used anonymously to prove uniqueness and humanness. In exchange for enrollment, the company is giving subscribers Worldcoin cryptocurrency, which launched in July.

The company has around 250 Orb devices in cities around the world and plans to ramp up their availability, despite warnings from some about the dangers of counterfeit devices. In March, it partnered with Jabil, in the U.S. state of Florida, to increase Orb production in Germany.

Executives ultimately want to build a massive financial and identity community, allowing others to use its technology. It’s aiming at unbanked people globally and has pitched itself as a solution to universal basic income and even “global democratic processes.”

Blania describes Worldcoin as the “cypherpunk alternative” to KYC, adding that his World ID could be used to authenticate anonymously for many online services.

“One of our theses from the beginning really was that the internet needs a foundational kind of proof-of-human, proof-of-personhood layer,” he says, “We essentially don’t have another fundamental solution to the problem other than KYC government identities, and even those we don’t have in many countries around the world, right?”

But critics caution that many countries may not want or need Silicon Valley-made identity and payments infrastructure. Some are building their own centralized system, such as the India Stack, which includes the country’s biometric ID system Aadhaar, and an open-source money transfer back-end called the Universal Payments Interface.

Governments may also find it hard to integrate Worldcoin’s vision of blockchain identity with their national infrastructure, trade publication Rest of World reports. Other countries are already adopting the technology behind India’s UPI, with Japan the latest to express its interest.

India has made exporting its digital public infrastructure, which includes UPI and the Aadhaar-enabled payment system (AePS), a priority of its foreign relations and G20 presidency.

Worldcoin is already seeing regulatory pushback in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and elsewhere. Wednesday, Kenya, which has its own digital ID scheme inspired by India Stack, announced it is suspending Worldcoin’s enrollments and cryptocurrency issuance while the government assesses its risk to the public. The company has paused registrations in Kenya.

The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision says it has been investigating Worldcoin since November over its biometric data processing practices. The German agency is in charge of tracking the company’s compliance with European Union data protection rules because Tools For Humanity has a German headquarters.

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