Worldcoin Loses Legal Bid to Keep Biometric Data Collection in Spain

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Key Insights

  • A Spanish court rejected Worldcoin’s injunction to overturn a temporary ban on its biometric data collection operations in the country
  • The decision allows Spain’s data watchdog to proceed with a 3-month investigation into Worldcoin’s iris scanning practices over privacy issues
  • Worldcoin argues its biometric technology promotes financial inclusion but faces scrutiny from regulators in multiple countries

MADRID (MarketsXplora) – Worldcoin, the cryptocurrency project aiming to distribute a globally inclusive digital identity and financial network, suffered a legal setback in Spain after a court rejected its attempt to overturn a temporary ban on biometric data collection in the country.

The company founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman had filed an injunction against an order issued on March 6 by Spain’s data protection agency AEPD prohibiting Worldcoin from gathering data like iris scans for three months pending an investigation.

Read also! Spanish Watchdog AEPD Orders Worldcoin to Halt Data Collection

However, the Contentious-Administrative Chamber of Spain’s Superior Court of Justice dismissed Worldcoin’s request on March 11, citing the priority of “safeguarding public interest” amid doubts over whether users had properly consented to data collection.

The AEPD alleges Worldcoin may have improperly gathered information from minors and prevented users from withdrawing consent, accusations the company denies and says contradict European Union data laws like GDPR.

“The AEPD has circumvented EU law, spreading inaccurate and misleading claims,” Worldcoin said in a statement, adding the Spanish regulator had ignored its letters for months.

Worldcoin uses biometric scanning devices called “orbs” that record people’s iris data to create unique identities tied to accounts on its digital money network, where users can earn its WLD tokens.

The AI-driven crypto project argues its privacy-preserving technology is designed for financial inclusion but has faced scrutiny from regulators also including Hong Kong, Kenya and India over data privacy concerns surrounding the biometric verification method.

Spain’s rebuff marks the latest roadblock for Worldcoin as it seeks to roll out its controversial identity and payments system globally using iris-scanning tech Altman has said permanently replaced the need for passwords.

“We are disappointed by the court’s decision,” Worldcoin said in response to the ruling which allows the AEPD’s order blocking its Spanish operations to remain in place.

“Worldcoin operates under the belief that privacy-preserving biometrics like iris scans can be an important tool for financial inclusion.”

Launched in 2021, the self-funded crypto project has rapidly expanded as Worldcoin seeks to distribute its digital money while amassing a database of unique human identities it argues can promote financial accessibility and digital property rights.

But authorities have raised alarms over risks of centralized biometric databases, improper consent and protections for sensitive personal data like eye scans.

Whether and how Worldcoin can continue operating in parts of Europe now hinges on the AEPD’s investigation in Spain and outcomes in similar probes elsewhere concerning privacy and consent surrounding the biometric sign-ups.

Samson Ononeme

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