Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Worldcoin, an eye-scanning cryptocurrency project supported by Sam Altman and Reid Hoffman

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Details about a new startup, Worldcoin, are slowly surfacing. The company aims to launch a new cryptocurrency that will be distributed to people in exchange for their eye scans. This futuristic-sounding idea has attracted major Silicon Valley supporters, including Y Combinator President Sam Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Day One Ventures.

However, although information about Worldcoin is still exposed, cryptography and privacy experts have found loopholes in its main premise.

Bloomberg Discovered the plan of this emerging startup, This seems to involve launching a cryptocurrency that everyone in the world can share.This idea seems to be affected by Universal basic incomeOr direct, unconditional payments to people, usually distributed by the government. The startup hopes to provide this currency by building a spherical device that converts people’s eye scans into a unique digital identifier to ensure that a person is the legitimate recipient of the payment and will not attempt to register multiple times. Bloomberg Citing Worldcoin’s online job postings, the startup hopes to build “a dedicated hardware device that ensures the humanity and uniqueness of each registrant, while maintaining their privacy and the overall transparency of the permission-free blockchain.”

According to Bloomberg News, the company has tested prototypes of its eye scanning device in several cities (volunteers are currently paying mainly in Bitcoin) and have at least $25 million in funding. The company’s leaders seem to think that its biometric data tracking device will prevent a person from registering for multiple Worldcoin payments. Overall, the startup hopes to power a new cryptocurrency that can be accessed by the whole world and can be paid to almost anyone-although they obviously have to agree to let Worldcoin scan their irises .

But some privacy and cryptocurrency advocates have warned that although the plan sounds like utopia, it has dystopian implications. They said that Worldcoin’s reliance on biometrics is unnecessary and may cause major privacy issues. They warned that this nascent proposal is to find a solution to the problem, and that its plan to rely on people’s extremely sensitive biometric data undermines the spirit of pseudonyms behind cryptocurrencies.

Biometric data is so sensitive because it uses a person’s physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, iris, or face, To identify them. Proponents of biometrics say that using body parts to identify people can be safer and prevent fraud.But critics point out that biometric systems can Built-in bias, And also need to collect highly sensitive information. If malicious actors have the data, this information cannot be replaced. “If your social security number is leaked, you can get a new social security number. If your credit card number is leaked, you can get a new credit card number,” Evan Gerry, deputy director of Digital Rights Group Fighting for the Future You, Tell recode last year. “If the biometric scan of your face leaks, you won’t be able to get a new face.”

Attorney John Davidson of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) told Recode in an email that at this time, we cannot guarantee that Worldcoin can protect these sensitive data. “This company and this currency shouldn’t exist at all,” he argued, adding that there are better ways to distribute the basic income for all without sacrificing privacy. Neither Day One Ventures nor Andreessen Horowitz responded to requests for comment.

Matthew Green, a professor at the Institute of Information Security at Johns Hopkins University, told Recode in an email: “Apple has spent a lot of effort adding biometrics to their devices, and their solution is simple: never send it. Beyond the mobile phone.” “But this does not apply to cryptocurrency.”

He emphasized that biometric technology may not necessarily prevent fraud. “No one knows how to build a reasonably priced iris scanner, it is not susceptible to some kind of deception,” Green told Recode. He said that those who want to evade the system can only find a way to fake the “new” iris.

Another criticism of Worldcoin is that it seems to require central control of the currency-which runs counter to the principles behind blockchain-based technology. Chief Strategy Officer Alex Gladstein (Alex Gladstein) said: “This is contrary to the value of Bitcoin and the original movement of creating digital currency. It can help us get rid of this kind of control system, in which the company And the government is cleaning up all our personal data.” An official of the Human Rights Foundation, Supported Use of Bitcoin.

Although Worldcoin’s eyeball scanning sounds novel, the concept of using biometrics to power blockchain-based payments is not entirely new.As early as 2017, the United Nations roll out A blockchain-based system for tracking payments in refugee camps in Jordan.To confirm people’s identities when they shop, the United Nations system uses iris-based Eye scan.

The idea of ​​using biometrics to pay benefits is not new. For example, the Indian government has been trying to expand its Aadhaar system, It uses citizens’ biometric data to promote financial government programs.Since its launch, Aadhaar — sometimes referred to as the world’s The largest biometric system -Face a lot of criticism, including it endangers people’s privacy, it makes Monitor status, And if people are unwilling or unable to create, it will exclude people from receiving government benefits Biometric recordAccording to reports, the system’s database has also been compromised in the past. report.

Albert Fox Cahn, Executive Director Surveillance Technology Supervision Project, Strongly opposed to the premise behind Worldcoin. “It is shocking that investors are wasting tens of millions of dollars on new crypto projects in the name of helping the world’s poor,” he said. “If they are really interested in helping low-income communities, they should donate their money instead of investing in another form of surveillance.”

On Tuesday, Sam Altman refuted concerns about the Worldcoin plan and hinted in a tweet that more information would be provided soon.

As cryptocurrency becomes getting more popular, Startups and large companies are increasingly seeking to cash out. But launching cryptocurrencies does not always work.For example, Facebook’s cryptocurrency Libra has encountered many obstacles-since it was renamed diem-to the point that Its launch was greatly delayed.

If Worldcoin makes its debut, those who sign up for its cryptocurrency will place bets with their biometric data. EPIC’s Davidson warned: “Worldcoin clearly wants to create a global identification system based on billions of highly sensitive biometric identifiers, all in exchange for a currency that may become worthless.”

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