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Worldcoin: Start-up rewards eye scans with crypto money

2021-10-25T19:31:33.164Z

Worldcoin wants to establish a kind of world currency - and relies on shiny chrome eye scanners. But the start-up's approach is probably not quite as fair and secure as the company promises.



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Iris scan for Worldcoin: The company is already active in some countries

Photo: Worldcoin

Show me your eye, then there will be money: A start-up called Worldcoin has started in some countries around the world to issue its cryptocurrency of the same name to volunteers.

The condition: If you want Worldcoin, you have to have your iris scanned on behalf of the company.

This is to prevent someone from filling their virtual wallet on their smartphone a second time with free shares.

The company's head-sized scanners look like chrome-plated death stars from “Star Wars”: the so-called orbs film the eyes of new customers with a camera, create a hash value and store the numerical code with an identification number in a database.

If someone wants to collect their welcome money a second time, the iris scan results in the same hash value before, according to the logic behind it - and the transfer is rejected.

According to Worldcoin, names and other characteristics of the scanned are not saved.

Likewise, it should not be possible to infer the respective iris from the values ​​in the database.

With the project, Worldcoin wants to create a "global currency that is distributed fairly to as many people as possible," according to the advertising promise.

But first of all, the founders have to overcome a major hurdle: Worldcoin, which uses Ethereum technology, has to get into conversation, has to stand out in the highly competitive crypto money market.

There are now almost 7,000 different digital currencies.

But, this is the chance for Worldcoin: his idea with the iris scans around the globe sounds dystopian and original-over-ambitious at the same time, so that the project can look forward to many press mentions like this one these days.

It is quite possible, of course, that Worldcoin will fail in the end, like many other digital currency projects before.

$ 25 million from investors

Worldcoin wants to create a maximum of ten billion coins in total.

Of this, 80 percent should go to the users.

The rest is earmarked for programming and orb production, as well as for investors who have already pumped $ 25 million into the start-up.

What a coin will ever be worth when converted into dollars is so far completely unclear.

One of the founders of the start-up is Sam Altman, who, among other things, heads the AI ​​research platform OpenAI.

Altman told Wired magazine that Worldcoin could "show the world a new way to think about an unconditional basic income."

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The iris scanner from Worldcoin: Science fiction films send their regards

Photo: Worldcoin

That sounds like an honest idea.

But Worldcoin does not want to follow the idea of ​​a basic income in which the same amount is paid out to everyone in a particularly dogmatic manner.

The company prefers to use marketing tricks: if you have your eye scanned early, you should get more coins, for example.

The starting amount decreases as the number of users increases.

Worldcoin wants to attract one billion users in the long term.

According to the company, the orbs have already scanned 100,000 eyes - but at the same time, only 30 spherical scanners are currently in use in France, Kenya, Indonesia, Sudan and Chile.

In the USA, scanning should only take place when "there is more clarity about the legal framework," said co-founder Alex Blania "Techcrunch".

IT expert recognizes possible fraud scenarios

Jörn Müller-Quade from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology considers the approach of the crypto experiment to be "well thought out". "Worldcoin is probably an attempt to distribute a kind of cosmopolitan money to everyone without anyone collecting twice," the computer science professor told SPIEGEL. However, you have to rely on the developers' information that there is a secret in the balls that really nobody knows - so that nobody can deduce the iris from the calculated hash values.

From Müller-Quade's point of view, however, it still remains unclear how, conversely, one should prevent someone from calculating a hash value from an iris photo, for example.

“In theory, the balls are vulnerable, so it would be possible to assign an ID to an iris,” says Müller-Quade.

So you could "check whether my neighbors have already picked up the gift of money."

If this is not the case, one can try to fool the scanner with contact lenses that are imprinted with a forged iris of the neighbor, says Müller-Quade.

Biometric skeptics should not be deterred

"The iris is not a biometric secret," says the IT expert.

"I show my iris completely openly every day." In addition, Müller-Quade points out that it would also be possible to "print money with fake iris images": by looking into the scanner with a fake eye there is no second time in the world.

Such tricks are at least thwarted by Worldcoin's previous approach: At the moment, the orbs are not even given into the hands of interested parties.

All scans are carried out by people who have been hired by the company to do so.

As soon as you have received your crypto money, the iris scan with an orb is no longer useful.

The headline-grabbing gadget doesn't help decrypting your virtual wallet, for example.

The company's website even states that you can easily set up a virtual Worldcoin wallet and trade the currency without an iris scan.

This should also convince crypto fans of Worldcoin, who find an eye scan a bit scary.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-10-25

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