Sell your own iris scan, a unique biometric data, in exchange for free money, especially cryptocurrencies. It’s the latest bizarre Silicon Valley gimmick, a story that seems to have come out of a dystopian TV series like Black Mirror and set to spark a privacy debate. Already a hundred thousand people have accepted and have had the image of the eye captured by a device called Orb, basically a metal sphere in the shape of an eyeball.
The offer of an entrepreneur
To have the idea and the ambition an entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, Sam Altman, who together with theoretical physics student Alex Blania created the Worldcoin project, a new cryptocurrency that adds to the diverse world that bitcoin has pioneered. Altman’s idea is to involve as many people as possible in a common payment system in which every single person can have a certain and unique access key to their virtual money. There can be only one solution: biometrics. Altman’s entrepreneurial history did the rest. He is CEO of the group of artificial intelligence company OpenAI and former president of the start-up accelerator Y Combinator. For this he attracted $ 25 million in Worldcoin funding from companies such as the Andreessen Horowitz fund, one of Silicon Valley’s best-known venture capitalists.
Already over 100 users have accepted
To all people interested in participating, the company distributes one Worldcoin each. Over 100,000 users would already be on board, while the stated goal of the newborn start-up is to reach 1 billion people by 2023. To scan the iris, the company uses Orb, a metal device that has a diameter of 20 centimeters that reads and decodes the iris to transform it into a usable code for identification. This proves that the coin belongs to a certain person and gives access to the personal virtual wallet, with the given Worldcoin inside. It is assumed that the others will be purchased. The promoters of the project guarantee that user data will not be stored in a database and argue that the final aim of the operation is to spread the use of cryptocurrencies as much as possible, now used by only 3% of the world population. The company is currently testing 30 prototype Orb devices in different parts of the world, but in the United States there may be a delay in gaining “greater clarity on the regulatory environment.”
The mechanism makes us reflect on the use of technologies and the effects on society, but also on the value that companies and users give to their privacy. Two years ago, the experiments of two tech greats, Google and Amazon, became a coincidence. The first was giving away a $ 5 voucher in exchange for scanning her face, a test to improve the facial recognition of her phones. The second gave a $ 25 coupon to anyone willing to have their bodies scanned: in this case too, the experiment was useful for improving one of his services, the sizing system for selling clothes online.
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