Worldcoin project: The Iris Cryptocurrency

Context: In July, Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, formally re-introduce Worldcoin, a project of his that was eclipsed by the popularity of ChatGPT.

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About Worldcoin project

  • It is a crypto project that aims to create a global identity and financial network for everyone. It is an initiative to create a digital network in which everyone can claim some kind of stake, and join the digital economy.
  • It uses a device called an orb, Worldcoin volunteers known as ‘Orb operators’ that scan a person’s iris pattern to collect their biometric data and help them get a World ID through the World app. 
  • With the app, scanned participants can collect a cryptocurrency called Worldcoin (WLD) at regular intervals or make transactions with their World ID where possible. This process is called proof of personhood and makes sure that people do not sign themselves up multiple times in exchange for crypto. 
  • It was co-founded by Altman and Alex Blania in 2019 to provide every human being on Earth with a share of its digital token.
  • It uses a technology known as zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) to maintain user’s privacy and user data was encrypted.
  • Individuals who want to receive a World ID are not required to share their name, phone number, email address, or home address. 
  • Images collected by the Orb are used to generate a unique iris code. By default, these images are immediately deleted once the iris code is created, unless the user opts into Data Custody.

Working of Worldcoin

  • Users need to be willing to scan irises and/or get their own irises scanned. Volunteers sign up to be “Orb operators” in their locality and receive basic training and a biometric device with which to scan irises.
  • The scan is converted into a string of numbers known as a hash in such a way that it’s impossible to recreate the scanned image even if the hash is compromised. 
  • The Orb sends the iris hash and a hash of the user’s public key to Worldcoin servers. If the person hasn’t signed up before, the hashes are added to the database and the company’s Ethereum blockchain.

Challenges to Worldcoin

  • Concerns exist about the privacy and security of biometric data and potential misuse for other purposes because it might be shared with third parties such as vendors, service providers like banks, or even the police and government when necessary.

Recently, according to a TechCrunch report, hackers installed password-stealing malware on the devices of multiple Worldcoin Orb operators, granting them complete control over the operators’ dashboards. This raises concerns about the security and privacy of the iris-scanning technology.

  • Questions arise about the feasibility and scalability of reaching unbanked or underbanked populations.
  • Doubt on the value and utility of the Worldcoin token, and whether it can compete with other cryptocurrencies or fiat currencies. 

Global expansion of Worldcoin

  • During its initial rollout phase, the Worldcoin project plans to offer its services in 35 cities spanning 20 countries, showcasing its dedication to providing inclusive digital identities to people worldwide.
  • India has taken a significant step forward in embracing Worldcoin’s identity verification technology. With 18 locations already equipped with the Orb device for sign-up, the country serves as a prominent and crucial testing ground for this innovative endeavor.

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