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Worldcoin Pulls Plug on Iris Scanning in India, Brazil, and France Amid Expansion Spree

Worldcoin has halted its offline Orb verification function in three key markets: India, Brazil, and France, according to a report by Moneycontrol released on December 21. The Orb, a distinctive five-pound chromatic helmet designed by Worldcoin, aimed to scan individuals’ eyeballs to verify their identities, particularly targeting regions where traditional identification methods are often inaccessible.

Initially conceived as a tool for onboarding residents in these regions, Worldcoin incentivized local operators to facilitate the offline onboarding process by offering rewards in USDC. However, in a shift that caught many by surprise, the company transitioned to providing rewards in its native token, WLD, starting in November.

Moneycontrol’s report revealed that the Orb verification process had been quietly discontinued in India around 3-4 months prior, despite the presence of crowds queuing up for Orb operators in certain parts of the country. Tools for Humanity, the foundation overseeing Worldcoin, clarified that the Orb initiative in India, France, and Brazil was always intended as a “limited-time access” program.

However, the data gathering involved in the onboarding process, particularly the collection of iris scans, has consistently drawn Worldcoin into a maelstrom of public controversy. Critics have vocally condemned the project, spearheaded by Sam Altman, the founder of OpenAI, citing ethical concerns and warning of the project’s potential to culminate in a “dystopian nightmare.”

This isn’t the first time Worldcoin has encountered skepticism and regulatory hurdles. German financial authorities initiated an investigation into the company in 2022, while the United Kingdom’s data regulatory body expressed intentions to conduct their inquiries soon after the project’s launch. Kenya went as far as outright banning Worldcoin’s operations within its borders.

The shutdown of the Orb verification process in these significant markets has only added fuel to the already raging fire of concerns and criticism surrounding Worldcoin’s practices. The abrupt discontinuation raises questions about the company’s intentions, the handling of sensitive personal data, and the ethical implications of its initiatives.

Worldcoin’s aspirations to revolutionize identification and inclusion have collided head-on with a storm of controversy, sparking debates not only about technological advancements but also about the ethical boundaries and societal implications of such ambitious projects. As the story continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how Worldcoin will navigate these turbulent waters and address the mounting concerns from critics and regulators alike.

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