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South Korea launches investigation into Worldcoin

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Regulators in South Korea have begun investigating Worldcoin’s management of confidential data.

Following reports of complaints regarding the collection and handling of such information, the Personal Information Committee announced on Thursday (Feb. 29) that they are examining the iris biometric cryptocurrency project.

In a statement issued today (March. 4), authorities stated they will also investigate the “international transfer of personal data, and if any violations are found, appropriate actions will be taken in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.”

The committee has emphasized that “Worldcoin affiliates are currently gathering facial and iris recognition data at approximately 10 locations in Korea.”

The iris scanning technology is utilized to issue users a ‘World ID,’ which serves as a digital identifier. As of July 2024, Worldcoin reported that over 2 million individuals worldwide had registered to use World ID.

Privacy apprehensions surrounding Worldcoin are not limited to South Korea, as the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has joined other global data protection authorities in investigating the controversial company since August of last year.

The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision (DPS) in Germany has been monitoring the crypto startup since November 2022, and the French National Commission for Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) has also made inquiries.

Worldcoin, an identity-centric cryptocurrency initiative, was co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.

Recent penalty for OpenAI in South Korea

This is not the first incident involving OpenAI in the Southeast Asian country.

The AI research firm was fined in 2024 after Korean authorities discovered that personal data from 687 South Korean citizens was exposed through ChatGPT.

The leak occurred due to an ‘unidentified error (bug) in the open source-based caching solution implemented to enhance service speed.’ This led to the exposure of names, emails, billing addresses, partial credit card numbers, and expiration dates of certain users worldwide accessing ChatGPT Plus to others.

Featured image: Photo by zero take on Unsplash

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