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Worldcoin reaches 10 million users, could face $1m fine in Argentina

Worldcoin reaches 10 million users, could face $1m fine in Argentina
 

It is the best of times and the worst of times for Worldcoin. The iris biometrics, digital ID and cryptocurrency project continues to accrue enrolments while prompting a barrage of legal challenges, warnings and potential penalties from concerned regulators.

In the latest salvo, the province of Buenos Aires has charged the company for including “abusive clauses” in its customer agreements and threatened it with a fine of up to one billion Argentine pesos (~US$1.15 million). A release from the provincial Ministry of Production, Science and Technological Innovation says language in Worldcoin’s terms and conditions, privacy notice and data consent form violates Argentina’s National Consumer Protection Law. The ministry also points to discrepancies between Worldcoin’s reported numbers and what inspectors observed and recorded at biometric capture sites. Plus, there is the question of where Argentines’ data will be stored (in this case, apparently, Brazil).

“It is worth asking if the biometric data is stored or if it is immediately deleted, if there are databases where it is stored and where the personal data of users in Argentina is stored,” says Ariel Aguilar, undersecretary of Commercial Development and Promotion of Investments of the Province. “The complexity of these contracts, the novelty of the operation deployed, the legal good that is at stake and the lack of information, prevent a clear and full understanding of the rules and operation of this entire operation.”

The violations Worldcoin is accused of range from inadequate signage to ambiguities around data storage. Inspectors flagged the lack of signs at enrolment stations indicating the minimum age requirement of 18 years. This, says the ministry, “would imply the scanning of personal data of minors.” Worldcoin has attempted to introduce data privacy protection features to address the question of legal age restrictions, but questions linger.

There are also violations that enable the company to interrupt the service without any reparation, and those that require any legal disputes to be resolved by arbitration in California – per the ministry, “violating what is expressly established by the Civil and Commercial Code of the Nation.”

Worldcoin, for its part, does not appear to be fazed, even as governments line up to try and shut down its iris scanning operations. In a press release, Worldcoin parent company Tools for Humanity announced that its World App now has more than 10 million users (at least half a million of which are in Argentina). The company says its growth in over 160 countries, with two million daily active users and more than 70 million total wallet transactions, represents “a significant increase in usage.”

“We’re of course thrilled about the milestone, but even more so about the real world impact it represents,” says Tiago Sada, Head of Product at Tools for Humanity. “A lot of projects in the community have worked for years on the fundamental building blocks of Ethereum. World App shows what’s possible when you make these simple, delightful and useful for everyday life.”

Despite the success of the World App wallet, the company says it hopes other options will emerge to create a more robust ecosystem of wallets for the protocol. Sada points to principles set out in the Worldcoin whitepaper around advancing decentralization.

“In other words, down the road the Worldcoin community has expressed interest in alternatives to World App, so that a wider range of people can engage with Worldcoin as they choose.”

And so the saga continues: Worldcoin continues to collect iris biometrics in exchange for crypto, and to frame its project in utopian terms. (Its release proudly notes the case of a man in Kenya who used his WLD tokens to buy a goat.) Meanwhile, governments continue to eye the project warily, and to ask in no uncertain terms exactly what the dickens it intends to do with all the sensitive biometric data it is collecting.

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