Spain bans Sam Altman’s Worldcoin amid data collection concerns


Spain has banned Worldcoin, a digital ID cryptocurrency venture launched by OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman, after the country’s privacy watchdog cited concerns over how the company’s eyeball-scanning technology collects and processes biometric data.
Sam Altman

Worldcoin said the ban was “circumventing” European Union laws while spreading “inaccurate and misleading” claims.

AFP via Getty Images

Key Takeaways
  • The Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD) issued a precautionary measure Wednesday that prohibits Worldcoin’s activities in the country for up to three months, after the agency received “several complaints” about alleged insufficient information, the collection of data from minors and concerns that consent can’t be withdrawn.
  • Worldcoin’s World ID requires users to scan their eyeballs through “orbs,” a device that captures an image of the user’s irises, before they receive a unique form of identification and the Worldcoin cryptocurrency.
  • AEPD requested Tools for Humanity, the company that collects and processes users’ personal data, to cease collecting additional data for new users in the country and stop using the data already gathered by Worldcoin.
  • Processing biometric data requires “special protection” because of “high risks to the rights of individuals,” including possible data transfers to third parties, the agency said.
  • Jannick Preiwisch, Worldcoin’s data protection officer, said in a statement to Forbes the Spanish agency was “circumventing EU law” while spreading “inaccurate and misleading claims” about the company, which added its World ID was “the most privacy-preserving and safest solution for asserting humanness in the age of AI.”
What To Watch For

Preiwisch noted Worldcoin has been communicating with data protection officials in Bavaria, the region of Germany where Tools for Humanity is located. Michael Will, president of Bavaria’s data watchdog, told Reuters discussions with Worldcoin would result in a “final evaluation” for other European agencies “very soon.”

Big Number

4 million. That’s how many people across 120 countries have signed up to have their eyes scanned through Worldcoin’s “orb,” according to the company.

Key Background

Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency and digital ID project, launched last year following a yearslong development process. The project aimed at resolving issues presented by developments in artificial intelligence, including challenges verifying someone’s identity. Worldcoin provides users with a unique digital identity after their eyes are scanned by a silver orb.

Prospective users were incentivized to join the project through the Worldcoin cryptocurrency token, which becomes available to new users. Worldcoin has suffered from technical issues since its launch, with some users saying they were unable to claim their tokens after their eyes were scanned. One Kenya-based operator told Forbes that Worldcoin failed to respond to hundreds of complaints after its network went offline less than two weeks after its launch. Some users also managed to trick the orb into creating multiple Worldcoin accounts for the same person.

This article was first published on and all figures are in USD.