Worldcoin Hits Roadblock in Portugal: Forced to Pause Personal Data Collection for 90 Days

March 26, 2024

Portugal has slammed the brakes on the ambitious plans of Worldcoin, the iris biometric cryptocurrency project developed by Tools for Humanity. Facing regulatory headwinds, the company finds itself compelled to hit pause on its biometric data collection efforts within Portuguese borders for a mandated 90-day hiatus. 

The National Data Protection Commission (CNPD) has taken decisive action against the Worldcoin Foundation’s data practices, suspending the collection of biometric data—including iris, eye, and facial scans—within Portugal’s borders on Monday. This move aims to uphold the fundamental right to personal data protection, with a particular emphasis on safeguarding minors. 

The CNPD has mandated Worldcoin to immediately halt the collection of such biometric information for 90 days. This pause allows the CNPD ample time to conduct a thorough investigation before issuing a final verdict on the matter.

The country’s watchdog disclosed that in recent weeks, it has been flooded with complaints, ranging from unauthorized data collection from minors to lapses in informing data subjects adequately and the inability to delete data or revoke consent. It also revealed the proliferation of Worldcoin’s ‘Orb’ devices in prominent commercial zones has seen a nearly twofold increase in data collection locations over the past six months. 

The CNPD expressed concerns over the significant surge in participants, which includes minors, eager to join the Worldcoin initiative and earn tokens. 

This uptick has prompted the implementation of pre-booking requirements for both registration and biometric data collection. Alarmingly, the CNPD highlighted the absence of an effective age-verification mechanism for members, raising serious data protection issues.

“Biometric data qualifies as special data under GDPR1 and therefore enjoy increased protection, with the risks of its treatment being high. On the other hand, minors are people particularly vulnerable and are also subject to special protection by the European legislator and national, as they may be less aware of the risks, consequences, and guarantees of the treatment of their personal data, as well as their rights,” CNPD said in its press release as translated by Google Translate.

“This order to temporarily limit the collection of biometric data by the Worldcoin Foundation is, at this moment, an indispensable and justified measure to obtain the useful effect of defending the public interest in safeguarding fundamental rights, especially of minors,” CNPD President Paula Meira Lourenço said.

Worldcoin Foundation data protection officer Jannick Preiwisch said that Worldcoin was “fully compliant with all laws and regulations governing the collection and transfer of biometric data. The report from CNPD is the first time we are hearing from them regarding many of these matters, including reports of underage sign-ups in Portugal, for which we have zero tolerance for and are working to address in all instances, even if a matter of a few reports.”

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