Potential Violations of Privacy in the Transfer of Iris Data

    Worldcoin is a company founded by Sam Altmann, CEO of OpenAI, ChatGPT's parent company, which claims that its iris scan is "proof of humanity"

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    The Worldcoin company has recruited nearly 400,000 users in Spain to scan their irises in exchange for digital currencies that this week are trading at 80 euros, a practice that the Spanish Data Protection Agency is investigating after receiving four complaints for improper use of data.

    The transmission of this type of data to a third party is never harmless, according to some experts consulted, who have put on the table what are the possible violations of privacy associated with this practice, and even the possibility of detecting diseases through that scan.

    “What the General Data Protection Regulation and the right to privacy say is that there must be free and informed consent in the transfer of data, and the best example that in this case they are not met is that, in the testimonies that we know, users do not know why they transfer their data,” BorjaAdsuara, a lawyer expert in digital law, explains.

    Adsuara emphasizes that the focus is not on making money in exchange for transferring the data, but rather on ensuring that whoever accepts the scanning of their iris knows what the information obtained will be used for.

    “That can constitute a crime and is what the AEPD is investigating, that users do not seem to have sufficient information about what Worldcoin is going to do with their data,” he highlights.

    The expert emphasizes that the key is not “in defending the data but the freedom of the person to do with their data whatever they want”, which is, according to him, comparable to sexual freedom: You can do with your body whatever you want, but no other person can do anything with your body without your consent.If we are clear about physical integrity, why aren’t we clear about privacy?” he asks.

    What health information does the iris reveal?

    One of the reasons why the potential illegitimate use of the data offered by iris biometrics raises so much suspicion is because it offers valuable information about health that, if it ends up in the hands of an insurer or contracting companies, for example, could be used , among others, to rule out sick people.

    Iris data are “obviously interesting in medicine, they are used for studies of eye diseases and also to detect symptoms of other diseases,” underlines Barcelona Supercomputing Center researcher Alfonso Valencia.In fact, there has been scientific literature on data on the health of a person offering their irises since the late 19th century.

    Valencia cites among these diseases diabetic retinopathy, coronary heart disease or uveomeningeal syndrome, a bilateral and diffuse granulomatous panuveitis that causes retinal detachment and can affect the central nervous system, the auditory system and the skin.

    Even cancer

    One of the greatest experts in this matter, the optometrist and ophthalmology researcher at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Laureldale (Florida) has confirmed in various studies that the iris can offer signs of various types of cancer, including some types of leukemia or brain tumors.

    The iris also provides data on the condition of optic neurititis, an inflammation of the optic nerve, which could be a symptom of multiple sclerosis; of high blood pressure or rheumatoid arthritis, according to data from the American Optometric Society.

    Worldcoin is a company founded by Sam Altmann, CEO of OpenAI, ChatGPT’s parent company, which claims that its iris scan is a “humanity test” to certify that a network user or buyer is a human person and not a robot, the company says.

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