The launch of blockchain-based digital passport platform Worldcoin has had a polarizing effect on the cryptocurrency community, with questions around its centralization, privacy and security highlighted.
Worldcoin released its protocol token on July 24, with major exchanges like Binance announcing support for the token. The project consists of a privacy-preserving digital identity (World ID) and its associated ecosystem token (WLD) which users receive upon creation of a wallet.
The Worldcoin project is now live. pic.twitter.com/xZXG4w56Ps
— Worldcoin (@worldcoin) July 24, 2023
In order for users to join the ecosystem, they have to 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, Worldcoin founders Alex Blania and Sam Altman wrote in a letter at 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 user’s mobile devices and used to prove their identity in a privacy-centric manner. The concept aims for World IDs act as a “proof of personhood” that make use of zero-knowledge proofs (ZK-proofs) to protect the underlying data, including biometric, KYC and AML data.
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, given the 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 unpacked by Cointelegraph, Buterin delved into the technicalities of proof of personhood blockchain protocols and the potential benefits and pitfalls of projects that are blazing a trail for the use case.
Buterin highlighted a key raison d’être for proof of personhood protocols in being able to prove human identity and be used to distribute universal basic income in the future.
“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 ID. He also highlighted privacy and security concerns around the Orb, design issues regarding its native token and some ethical concerns around whether biometrics “are a good ideal 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 proponent Jack Dorsey had one word to describe Blania and Altman’s “attempt at global scale alignment” that Worldcoin aims to deliver:
“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 is managing 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 provided 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 the Worldcoin project:
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 intimated that Worldcoin was emulating his own GoodDollars digital universal basic income platform:
— YoniAssia.eth (@yoniassia) July 24, 2023
As per Worldcoin’s white paper documentation, the protocol was originally deployed on Polygon in its beta phase, while the current version runs on the Ethereum mainnet using a scalable batching architecture through layer 2 protocol Optimism. The project has over two millions users enrolled.