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Your biometrics are for sale – ChatGPT’s creator pays you to get your eyes scanned

Francisco Sá
Market Monday March 18th 2024

If the product is free, you are the product. Although many are familiar with this quote, you may have seen crowds of people waiting to get an eye scan at your nearest shopping center in exchange for some tokens called Worldcoins.

Every day, almost 4,000 people in Portugal and other thousands around the world accept to have their iris, the colored part of the eye, scanned using a biometric device called “Orb”, which is distributed by local partners in public places. The Orb scans your iris and generates a unique World ID connected to it. So, to receive Worldcoins you need to download the company’s World App, where you can send and receive this currency.

Worldcoin, created by ChatGPT’s CEO Sam Altman, is a new global digital currency. Despite the token being only backed by expectations and trust, Worldcoin’s price has increased substantially as more people scan their iris and download the World App. At the time of writing, it is currently trading at $7.84, up from $2.47 three months ago. The company aims to create a new financial network linked to your iris using this currency, which serves to verify your identity and ensure that your wallet can only be accessed by you. To address the potential mass layoffs that could result from the artificial intelligence developed by Sam Altman and others in the future, he created this token as the solution. The company claims to have created Worldcoin to create a more inclusive and fair economic system that can benefit everyone equally, independently from your country or background, reducing inequality, by providing an AI-funded universal basic income every week to help pay your bills. However, 10% of the coin’s supply is held by the founders and early investors, 20% is reserved for future developments and operations, and the remaining 70% is allocated to average users. Furthermore, the amount of Worldcoins each user receives depends on the number of verified users, which means that earlier users receive more coins than later users do. So, how exactly is the company trying to reduce inequality if some receive more than others and just 10 Worldcoin wallets control 98% of the current total Worldcoin supply?

Some countries, such as Portugal, Brazil, and the US, have started investigations into this matter and the impact of mass processing of biometric data. Others, such as Spain and China, have suspended this due to the collection and use of personal data. Despite these worries, the company claims that it complies with the law in all countries where it operates. The iris is considered one of the most accurate, unique, and secure biometrics authentication methods. Iris patterns are unique to each individual and remain stable over time. Unlike fingerprints, iris recognition can detect whether the individual is alive, adding an extra layer of security. However, most people who join the program seem to underestimate this and prefer the short-term reward despite the long-term risks of sharing your biometrics with a company. Currently, nearly four million people have registered for a World ID. The majority of those who have undergone these scans belong to younger demographics or lower-income groups.

Finally, as more people scan their eyes and it becomes more popular, it is safe to assume that more countries will delve deeper into this subject in order to access the risks and benefits of scanning people’s eyes to create a digital wallet linked to their Biometry. More people are now realizing what the compensation is for receiving “free” money and are starting to question why Sam Altman is giving away money to be part of a solution to the problem he is creating.

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