What's the Point of Eye-Scanning Crypto Project Worldcoin?

By  Abdullah Kashif August 15, 2023

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Summary

  • Worldcoin is a crypto project based on iris-scanning technology used to verify identities
  • This creates unique digital identifiers for individuals based on eye scans
  • Development of Worldcoin began as early as 2019
  • Worldcoin has been the source of many conflicting opinions, including privacy concerns

In the midst of a tepid crypto market, the new project named "Worldcoin" is stirring up a new debate around digital identity and privacy in the AI era, as well as who should hold the keys to data regarding people's identities. It's important to understand Worldcoin's history and the people behind the project, explain how its eye-scanning technology works and examine different reactions that have come up since the project's launch.

Worldcoin's Timeline

The Worldcoin mainnet officially launched on July 24, 2023. However, development has been underway as early as 2019. Here is a recap of the project's history, from inception to the present day.

  • 2019 - Founders Sam Altman, Max Novedstern and Alex Blania officially lay the foundation for an identity verification project. The project is backed by popular venture capital (VC) Andreessen Horowitz.
  • 2020 - Worldcoin begins testing proprietary iris-scanning technology in countries such as Indonesia, Kenya, Sudan, Ghana, Chile and Norway.
  • 2021 (June) - The company provides more details about the tokenomics of the native WLD token, stating that it intends to build a "more unified and equitable global economy driven by the internet economy," with the project running on Ethereum as a layer 2.
  • 2021 (October) - Worldcoin raises nearly $100 million to develop the technology, pushing the token's market cap to around $3 billion.
  • 2022 - An exclusive report from MIT raises concerns about unethical practices by the company, such as the exploitation of low-income nations to provide biometric information in exchange for money. The report suggests that Worldcoin has completed field testing in over twenty-four countries, with over 450,000 eye, face and body scans.

Source: Technology Review

  • 2023 (May) - TechCrunch reports that Worldcoin was hacked and that the hackers were able to steal the personal device login credentials of multiple Worldcoin operators.
  • 2023 (May) - Worldcoin reports an additional $115 million in funding , along with the onboarding of over two million users. ( Source )
  • 2023 (July) - Worldcoin mainnet officially launches with eleven orb locations in the US and multiple others planned in over twenty countries.

What Is the Point of Worldcoin?

On the internet, the issue identity has long been the cause of financial fraud and identity theft. Because there is no foolproof way to verify the real identity of a person, hackers often use personal information for various illegal purposes.

On top of that, companies that operate under a centralized structure gain access to personal information to verify people's identities. In the process, these companies also gain access to sensitive personal data that can be exploited for nefarious purposes.

Worldcoin aims to solve this problem by using biometric information to verify the actual identity of a person. Companies can simply ask a user to provide their "World ID," then ask Worldcoin as a third-party verification partner to verify the user's identity and authenticate the user.

In the entire process, the user information rests solely with Worldcoin and not the company. This minimizes the amount of personal information the user has to share to use digital services.

A Story of Orbs, Blockchains and Personhood

Source: NBC News

While many crypto projects exist and operate entirely on the internet, Worldcoin takes a different approach. Orbs act as physical devices placed all around the globe, taking iris scans to verify the users' identities and uploading them on the Ethereum blockchain.

Here is a step-by-step guide to the working process:

  • Step 1 - A u ser downloads the Worldapp and creates an account.
  • Step 2 - The user locates the nearest orb in their region/country. Once an orb is located, the user proceeds with an iris scan. The orb saves the biometric user information.
  • Step 3 - The orb uploads the information on the Worldcoin network, where it is processed and verified.
  • Step 4 - Once the verification process is complete, the user is issued a Worldcoin ID, which acts as a unique digital identifier. The Worldcoin ID can then be used to access different online services.
  • Step 5 - Users are issued "Worldcoin tokens" as rewards for providing their iris scans and joining the network. These tokens carry real value and can be used to purchase goods and services.

The Internet's Reaction

Around the globe, people have had mixed reactions to the Worldcoin project. Most believe that the project has dystopian undertones and that this level of user information collected from people all around the world should not rest with a private corporation.

Many European countries like France and Germany had a negative reaction to the project's launch, stating privacy concerns . Other countries like Kenya have also suspended Worldcoin's use over privacy concerns .

Whether or not Worldcoin will be successful remains to be seen, but initial reactions have not been in the project's favor. Although the project is ambitious and demonstrates a need for digital identity protection, only time will decide whether the approach taken by Worldcoin holds merit or not. The project has gained millions of users through signups after launch, but the project relies on trust at a massive global scale for the project to be successful.