Ever since the launch of Sam Altman’s Worldcoin project, the hype around the concept has significantly risen. Numerous questions are being asked about the same and curiosity as to what the technology holds for the future is gripping the masses. What Worldcoin is, how one can register for the same, various challenges facing the project, how safe the project is, and what are its chances of being successful, are some of the questions being asked.
What is Worldcoin?
Worldcoin, the ambitious cryptocurrency and digital ID project spearheaded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, was launched recently on July 24 after years in development. The “orb,” a biometric device that scans the iris, which must be used in person and provides users with a distinct digital identity to confirm they are a genuine human and not a bot, is the distinctive feature of the project.
The project also includes a cryptocurrency called Worldcoin (WLD) that can be used after a user has verified their identity, as well as an app that enables users to use it to send and receive payments, make purchases, and transfer other digital assets. During its launch last month, Worldcoin announced that it is expanding its eyeball-scanning operations to 35 cities in 20 countries after gaining more than 2 million users during a trial period.
Alex Balani, who co-founded Worldcoin, is the main force behind Worldcoin at the moment. Until it reaches its final level of decentralization, Blani is the CEPO of Tools for Humanity, the company that is developing Worldcoin. Balani said, “The necessity for identity verification is no longer a topic of serious debate in the era of artificial intelligence. Worldcoin aims to create a privacy-first, decentralized, and maximally inclusive solution to this issue.”
How can you register?
Users must first download the World App before they can register with an email address and password. After registering, they need to visit the nearest Worldcoin orb operator which can be located through the Worldcoin application or the official website. One can easily book the slot for the scan through either of the options. To verify that the user is a human, the orb will scan their iris. After the user’s human identity is confirmed, a World ID is given to the user which can be used for transactions. After receiving the World ID, registered users will receive one WLD token as compensation. The app allows you to view your WLD balance and transactions. Additionally, you can send and receive WLD by inputting addresses or scanning QR codes.
How safe is Worldcoin?
According to the official website, the first wallet created for the Worldcoin project, World App, may be downloaded and used without providing any personal information. This includes, name, phone number, photo, passport, etc. The Worldcoin ecosystem powers World ID, a global identity technology that lets the users maintain anonymity. It is not linked to your wallet because they both have separate accounts with unique keys and different functions. Each holder of a World ID can choose which (if any) personal data to share with third parties when using World ID because everything is optional and no personal data is divulged by default.
When it comes to the Orb and the captured iris images, after generating the iris code, the Orb by default immediately deletes iris photos. This allows Worldcoin to train its iris identification and segmentation models and related algorithms using the users’ iris photos. Considering all this, it seems quite believable that users will have proper control over their personal information, however it is a little early to set anything in stone.
Will Worldcoin be a success?
The Worldcoin project has encountered its fair share of criticisms since its unofficial launch a few years ago. The use of biometric data, such as eye scans, to confirm users’ identities is a major source of concern when it comes to the privacy dangers associated with the collection, storage, and utilization of such data. Others have expressed concern about Worldcoin being used to identify people in such a personal and specific way, given that one crucial feature of the blockchain, the technology underlying cryptocurrencies and other distributed networks, is to conceal one’s identity. For some, the fact that the project offered WLD cryptocurrency in exchange for early signups amounted to a fair share of skepticism and criticism for being a blatant bribe.
Furthermore, the orb scan is not entirely oblivious to any flaws. According to three persons familiar with the matter, Worldcoin uncovered a vulnerability last year where operators were trying to trick the system into making several signups for the same user. At least three Kenyan operators were dismissed for exploiting the Orb to increase their signup rates in an effort to receive bigger rewards. Earlier this year, the startup issued a software upgrade to address the problem. According to a former Worldcoin employee, the incident was so serious that senior authorities, including CEO Alex Blania, were informed.
Now that Worldcoin has officially started, Altman stated he intends to sign up 50 million users. Given the requirement for in-person appointment for each iris scan, it is uncertain how rapidly the company will be able to scale. According to the Worldcoin website, the project is actively recruiting orb operators for various locations and has already manufactured about 2000 orbs. Despite this, doubts still remain as to how the targets will be achieved.
There seem to be major issues with Worldcoin that need to be addressed. First, if we keep aside the novelty of scanning the iris to verify identity, the Worldcoin project raises serious questions about the sensitive data protection and the implications of that data being disclosed in any form. Second, it remains unclear how the colossal number of scans will be feasible, let alone the worries around how easy it is to tamper with Orb to recreate identity.
While much is being said about Altman’s Worldcoin, it seems that the co-founders are unclear about the direction in which the project is going and its application. Financial transactions, voting, airdropping cryptocurrency, remittances, and website logins are among the list of potential uses for Worldcoins identification system, according to one document. As the company is still in its early stage, it might be premature to make any bold predictions. However, once the above-mentioned issues are addressed and the company wins the trust of its users, Worldcoin does have the potential of becoming a household name in the industry.