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There’s a new crypto in town, but before you get excited, you might want to squeeze your eyes shut. That’s because WorldCoin, a Silicon Valley startup backed by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffmann and major venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz, among others, is mashing up three distinct financial pursuits—crypto, a universal basic income (UBI) project which is a way for every member of society to receive money for essential needs, and biometric scanning. That’s where the scan of your iris comes in.
Bloomberg reported that WorldCoin wants to use cryptocurrency to equitably spread the wealth via a UBI system and to do so it would need to confirm user’s identities using the iris scanner. Currently, test subjects are getting paid by the company in bitcoin to try out the eye scanner, a biometric device that records the eye to create a unique personal identifier.
Spreading Crypto to the Masses
WorldCoin hasn’t been formally unveiled but the company, founded by Alexander Blania, 27, a former theoretical physics student, and Sam Altman, former head of Y Combinator, is evaluating distributing cryptocurrency to as many people as possible. The aim is to give a new digital global currency to every person on earth through a novel approach—scanning their eyes with a basketball-sized device, which turns your iris into a unique numerical identity. Think of it as the social security number of the future.
The company, which will be headquartered in San Francisco, is currently testing out about 20 of their prototype eye scanners. Blania is said to have suggested that using the iris scan is the best way to prevent fraudulent use of the system.
Cryptocurrency Utopia or Dystopia?
Of course, the security implications of iris scans are huge. Privacy experts and critics compare using biometrical data, such as fingerprints or irises, to debit, credit cards, or even cryptocurrency passwords with two-step verifications and encryption. When your card gets compromised, you’re issued a new one. But when your iris is compromised that opens a whole new can of secure body parts.
What’s more, to participate in the new UBI wealth redistribution, every user would have to consent to have his or her eye scanned, which might seem a bit dystopian in theory. Relying on a biometrical technology to distribute WorldCoin to create a more utopian world could lead to major security issues, not to mention undermining the anonymity of the crypto world in its current iteration.
The highly sensitive data needed to run the entire system would be open to malicious attacks though WorldCoin reports that the iris scans would be destroyed and replaced with a new numerical identifier. Ugh, why not just use some type of global social security number then? But that wouldn’t be fancy or cool enough.
Also, we wonder if anyone has stopped to think what people will do with WorldCoin cryptocurrency when they have no basis of education about it, when it’s given to them for free, and they have no real understanding of the value of their asset. They’ll probably sell it or exchange it for something else.
Still, we can’t be too careful when it comes to using body parts for a digital currency system. Its very nature was to thwart Big Brother and the collection of personal data. Yet in order to take a chance on a new crypto, and get your share of the newly minted coin, which may or may not make it in the long run, you’d have to fork over your iris.
We may not have heard it all yet, but it feels like WorldCoin may have a few blinks left to work out.