The launch of the blockchain-based digital passport platform Worldcoin has polarized the cryptocurrency community, with people raising questions about its centralization, privacy and security.
Worldcoin released its token, WLD, on July 24, with major exchanges such as Binance announcing support. The project consists of World ID, a privacy-preserving digital identity, and WLD, which users receive upon creating a wallet.
The Worldcoin project is now live. pic.twitter.com/xZXG4w56Ps
— Worldcoin (@worldcoin) July 24, 2023
To join the ecosystem, users must provide a scan of their iris through one of Worldcoin’s specialized Orb hardware devices. This step provides “proof-of-personhood” that is cryptographically secured and used as a World ID, founders Alex Blania and Sam Altman wrote in a letter upon the project’s launch.
“This lets you prove you are a real and unique person online while remaining completely private.”
The global digital passport is set to be stored locally on users’ mobile devices and used to prove their identity in a privacy-centric manner. World IDs will use zero-knowledge proofs to protect the underlying data, including biometric, Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering data.
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Worldcoin will also enable users to “reserve” their respective IDs with a phone number in select countries, with an iris scan required to complete the process and receive a World ID.
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin was among a number of industry figures to comment on the launch of Worldcoin and its potential for biometric proof-of-personhood.
What do I think about biometric proof of personhood?https://t.co/yozo1buW24
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) July 24, 2023
In a lengthy blog post, which was unpacked by Cointelegraph, Buterin delves into the technicalities of proof-of-personhood blockchain protocols and the potential benefits and pitfalls of projects blazing a trail for the use case.
Buterin highlighted being able to prove human identity and be used to distribute universal basic income in the future as key raisons d’être for proof-of-personhood protocols.
“Worldcoin is unique in that it relies on highly sophisticated biometrics, scanning each user’s iris using a piece of specialized hardware called ‘the Orb.’”
As Buterin explains, Worldcoin Orbs are set to be distributed around the world to allow users to create their respective digital IDs. He also highlights privacy and security concerns around the Orb, design issues regarding its native token, and some ethical concerns around whether biometrics “are a good idea at all.”
“Risks include unavoidable privacy leaks, further erosion of people’s ability to navigate the internet anonymously, coercion by authoritarian governments, and the potential impossibility of being secure at the same time as being decentralized.”
Twitter co-founder and Bitcoin (BTC) proponent Jack Dorsey had one word to describe Worldcoin’s “attempt at global scale alignment”:
“Worldcoin is an attempt at global scale alignment…”
— jack (@jack) July 24, 2023
Bitcoin advocate Anita Posch also suggested that the centralized nature of the Worldcoin project and the amount of data it manages could be a potential point of failure:
A global database of human IDs issued after an eye scan, paid for with useless Worldcoin token, connected with all financial transaction data of each individual managed by a centralized non-profit collecting sensitive data for KYC/AML.
WHAT COULD GO WRONG? https://t.co/8K6R17vBb0
— Anita ⚡️ Bitcoin for Fairness (@AnitaPosch) July 24, 2023
EthHub co-founder Anthony Sassano offered food for thought, suggesting that the likes of bankrupt FTX and Three Arrows Capital (3AC) could refund all creditors with the appreciation of their early-stage investments in Worldcoin:
FTX and 3ac both invested in Worldcoin which is currently worth $30bil fdv
Ergo, FTX and 3ac can now pay back all creditors using their Worldcoin gains
It’s just that simple
— sassal.eth (@sassal0x) July 24, 2023
EToro founder Yoni Assia implied that Worldcoin emulates his own GoodDollar digital universal basic income platform:
They say imitation is a form of flattery, so I’m flattered @worldcoin are launching a similar project to @gooddollarorg It will be interesting to see how UBI on the blockchain expands
In @gooddollarorg you can simply use the wallet face identification to start collecting… https://t.co/mNvlZRRXYd
— YoniAssia.eth (@yoniassia) July 24, 2023
According to Worldcoin’s white paper, the protocol was initially deployed on Polygon in its beta phase, with the current version running on the Ethereum mainnet using a scalable batching architecture through layer-2 protocol Optimism. The project has over 2 million users enrolled.
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