Is Worldcoin Any Worse than IBM and X?

Elon Musk’s X will soon start collecting users’ biometric data, while IBM is again working on facial recognition technology.
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Quick take:

  • Worldcoin has been banned in most countries including the US amid concerns about the use of biometric data collected through iris scans.
  • Yet, IBM, which previously abandoned work on facial recognition technology has recently resumed its plans.
  • X, formerly Twitter will on September 29 start collecting users’ biometric data.

IBM has returned to the facial recognition market, just three years after abandoning the plans. The US business intelligence solutions giant initially stopped developing technology amid concerns about racial profiling, mass surveillance, and various human rights violations.

In June 2020, IBM chief executive Arvind Krishna wrote a letter to Congress announcing his company was backing off from the development of a “general purpose” facial recognition technology. 

“The fight against racism is as urgent as ever,” he wrote, amid the Black Lives Matter movement. “IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency.”

However, the technology giant seems to be veering off its initial declaration after its recent deal with the British government. The company has signed a $69.8 billion contract to develop “a national biometrics platform that will offer a facial recognition function to immigration and law enforcement officials,” the Verge reported.

This announcement also comes hot on the heels of the popular cryptocurrency Worldcoin’s ban across multiple jurisdictions amid fears of how the company plans to use biometric data collected through iris scans.

The Worldcoin token $WLD launched with a bullish sentiment before plunging substantially, after several countries including the United Kingdom, France and Argentina started conducting investigations on its use of biometric data and onboarding security risks.

The Web3 company wanted to make it easier to create digital identities for people globally, but those plans could now be limited to a few countries.

The biggest question now is what is so different between the UK’s multi-billion dollar deal with IBM to develop a national biometrics platform that collects data through facial recognition and Worldcoin’s iris scans?

And that is not all, even in the US where Worldcoin was banned from the start, X (formerly Twitter) will soon begin collecting users’ biometric data, as part of its know your customer (KYC) security features to get rid of scammers and spammers on its platform.

An X spokesperson told Bloomberg that the biometric policies will be implemented on premium accounts only, adding that the process of verifying the biometric data “will also help X fight impersonation attempts and make the platform more secure.”

Actions taken by countries like the US and China have seen others like Kenya which initially warned Worldcoin not to do iris scans join the ‘banned-wagon’. Yet this is not something really new. Several countries around the world have been collecting biometric data of residents for years. Financial institutions and national electoral bodies are good examples.

However, these entities are subject to clear regulatory requirements on customer privacy and data protection rights. So, is a lack of a clear regulatory framework in the cryptocurrency industry the reason why some countries banned Worldcoin?

Worldcoin asks people to sign a consent form before submitting their biometric data through the orb. People can also withdraw their consent if they wish to. Worldcoin claims it never sees the data as it is stored in encrypted format for use in creating a global digital identity system.

Is that any different from what IBM is doing with the UK government?


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