Debunking the most common myths about Worldcoin
The Worldcoin protocol is both ambitious in its scope and complex in its execution.
It involves custom hardware, blockchain, proof-of-personhood, biometrics, privacy protections, global operations, zero-knowledge proofs and much more—all with a goal of building the world’s largest decentralized identity and financial network as a public utility.
This complexity can—and should—provoke curiosity and healthy skepticism, which fosters open dialogue, accountability and trust building. In the absence of factual information, however, it can also lead to misunderstanding.
So let’s address some of the most common myths and misconceptions about Worldcoin, and share important information about them.
Myth #1: Worldcoin stores everyone’s iris images in a database
This is false. The Worldcoin protocol uses biometrics to establish proof of unique personhood, and images are promptly deleted unless specifically opted in by the person signing up. See the summary below and additional resources for more information.
For context, the Orb is a custom biometric imaging device that privately and securely verifies an individual’s unique personhood. It has two tasks: (1) determine if someone is an actual living person and (2) create an iris code, or numerical representation of the most important features of an individual’s iris pattern, by taking a set of pictures of the person’s irises. All of these operations happen in real-time on the device.
The iris code is signed with the Orb’s unique private key and submitted for comparison against all other iris codes to verify uniqueness. Importantly, a person’s iris code is not used to identify who they are, only to verify that they’re unique (i.e. have not appeared in front of an Orb before).
More in-depth information, including additional privacy and security features, can be found in the following resources:
- Solving for privacy: Our approach to keeping information safe
- Privacy at Worldcoin: A technical deep dive - Part I
- Understanding the Orb and why Worldcoin uses biometrics
- Opening the Orb: A look inside Worldcoin’s biometric imaging device
Myth #2: Worldcoin only operates in developing countries
This is false. Worldcoin was created to give everyone access to the global economy, and it operates in a wide range of countries. Such diversity is important because, in order to equally serve as many people as possible, the technology must be able to work even in remote and often underserved locations.
Economic access is particularly important in developing nations, which are home to many of the more than 4.4 billion people worldwide who either don’t have a legal identity or have one that can’t be digitally verified. This is a major stumbling block when it comes to accessing financial services. But it isn’t only important there.
Take Portugal, a developed European nation where more than 1.1% of the population has already signed up to use the Worldcoin protocol. Portugal’s open-arms approach to tech and crypto has helped Worldcoin become not just a financial resource, but an educational one. For example, Tools for Humanity (TFH), a company working to support the Worldcoin protocol, has entered into a business incubation agreement with the Nova SBE Haddad Entrepreneurship Institute, part of Portugal’s renowned Nova School of Business & Economics.
“Web3, crypto and proof-of-personhood are all emerging as ideas and technologies that could have a vital role to play in the economy of tomorrow. The Worldcoin protocol touches on all three of these in an exciting way, and Nova SBE is proud to work with TFH in a way that helps educate more people about the realities of a rapidly evolving global economic landscape.”
Executive Director of the Nova SBE Haddad Entrepreneurship Institute
The truth is that the 1.2+ million people who have already signed up to use Worldcoin come from all over the world, including a diverse array of nearly 30 developing and developed countries like Argentina, Kenya, India and Spain.
Myth #3: Worldcoin is a closed, centralized project
This is false. Decentralization has always been a key part of achieving Worldcoin’s mission, and important progress has been and continues to be made on this front.
The initial development of the Worldcoin protocol was led by TFH, but its longer term mission goes much further. To this end, early Worldcoin contributors recently came together to establish the independent Worldcoin Foundation, which serves as the protocol’s steward to support and grow the Worldcoin community as it becomes fully decentralized and self-sufficient.
Additionally, TFH regularly partners with ETH Global on hackathons to both engage with and elicit support from the global developer community. In 2022 alone, over a thousand developers created hundreds of projects using the World ID SDK, earning more than $100K in prizes for the best projects.
A number of protocol-related Github repositories have also been open sourced under standard open-source licenses. One example is the Signup Sequencer, the component responsible for scaling WorldID signups. Along these lines, TFH recently opened the current version of the Orb design and shared all relevant hardware-related engineering files in its Github repository. The hardware design was shared under a responsible use license to ensure it’s only used to benefit the world.
There are many more examples of both the progress being made towards fully decentralizing the Worldcoin protocol and plans for the path ahead. Updates are being shared regularly, such as can be seen below.
Our path and progress towards decentralization 🧵— Worldcoin (@worldcoin) February 16, 2023
Worldcoin’s mission is ambitious, and decentralization has always been a key part of its success. Building the largest global financial and identity network can't happen without a motivated and diverse community.
The most important thing that can be done to combat myths and misinformation is sharing information transparently, freely and often to help people stay informed.
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