The Hong Kong government ordered Worldcoin to cease operations within its borders on Wednesday, accusing the identity project of skirting its privacy rules. The administration's Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) is demanding Worldcoin leave Hong Kong—and is asking citizens to report if they see further Worldcoin operations.

“The privacy commissioner has served an enforcement notice on Worldcoin Foundation, directing it to cease all operations of the Worldcoin project in Hong Kong in scanning and collecting iris and face images of members of the public using iris scanning devices,” the PCPD said.

The PCPD claims that the collection of face and iris images was unnecessary and excessive. It also alleges that Worldcoin collected personal data unfairly by not providing privacy notices and consent forms in Chinese, failing to disclose all possible risks, and not clearly informing participants of the reason for the collection.

While the project's Orb hardware is a signature part of its operation, Hong Kong administrators said they weren't needed to verify someone's humanity.


“Scanning or collection of face images was not required for the purpose of verifying the humanness of the participants as the iris scanning device operators were already in the position to carry out such verification at the operating locations,” the PCPD said in the report.

Formed in 1996, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data is an independent body that oversees the enforcement of Hong Kong’s personal data laws.

Worldcoin pushed back on the accusations.

“Worldcoin Foundation is disappointed by the views recently released by the regulatory authorities in Hong Kong,” a Worldcoin Foundation spokesperson told Decrypt. “Worldcoin operates lawfully and is designed to be fully compliant with all laws and regulations governing data collection and use, including the Personal Data (privacy) ordinance of Hong Kong, among many other similar statutes across other markets.”


The Worldcoin Foundation said authorities in Hong Kong overlooked several factors including data minimization, user control over their data, iris code deletion, and “secure multi-party computation.”

“Unfortunately, the authorities in Hong Kong overlooked these aspects in their evaluation of the humanness verification process,” the Worldcoin Foundation said.

Launched in 2022, Worldcoin—developed by Tools For Humanity, co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, and stewarded by the non-profit Worldcoin Foundation—uses controversial Orb iris scanners and its World ID application to combat bots by ensuring members or users of a system are actual people. Participants are issued WLD tokens in exchange for letting Worldcoin scan users' biometrics.

According to Tools For Humanity, since its launch, World ID has drawn over 10 million users in 160 countries, with over 5 million people having verified their identity using the Worldcoin Orbs.

“Taking into account biometric data is sensitive personal data, any wrongful disclosure or leakage of such data could lead to grave consequences,” the PCPD wrote. “Given that there were less privacy-intrusive means as alternative options to verify the identity of the participants, the collection of face and iris images for such purpose was not necessary, and excessive, thereby contravening the requirements of [our Data Protection Principles].”

Worldcoin did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.

In March, to alleviate privacy concerns surrounding its Orb iris scanners, Worldcoin open-sourced core components on Github, allowing researchers to examine the technology more deeply.

“Open sourcing typically helps to foster trust, transparency, and verifiability while also encouraging developer communities to further advance a technology,” a Worldcoin spokesperson previously told Decrypt. “This builds on the open sourcing of the iris code last late last year and opening up of the hardware nearly a year ago.”


Despite the PCPD’s actions, Worldcoin’s WLD token is up 0.8% for the day and 5.0% for the last seven days according to CoinGecko.

Edited by Ryan Ozawa. This article has been updated to include a response from the Worldcoin Foundation.

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