The long awaited Worldcoin from the CEO of OpenAI Sam Altman was finally released today. Many top crypto exchanges have already listed the new cryptocurrency, making the price soar to 90%. However Ethereum Co-founder Vitalik Buterin has some reservations concerning the new coin.
In a blog post earlier today, buterin who is also the chief executive officer (CEO) of Ethereum said there are four major risks associated with the biometric-based proof-of-personhood (PoP) system used by Worldcoin.
His main concerns were in the area of privacy, accessibility, centralization and security, which are all critical metrics anyone using a cryptocurrency would need to be aware of. Buterin proposed combining the use of social-graph and biometric techniques to mitigate these risks.
For those not familiar with it, PoP is a system designed to authenticate the uniqueness of a user in a decentralized way without relying on a central authority or revealing personal information. The system has many applications, including Sybil attack prevention by curbing multiple account creation, event tickets, airdrops and DAO voting.
Risks in Worldcoin
Indeed, the technology used in building Worldcoin has many applications. However, Buterin sees some major risks in the use of this technology for a cryptocurrency like Worldcoin, and highlighted those concerns.
For example, according to him, the use of iris scanning raises substantial privacy concerns as there is an inherent risk of identity-related information being misused or leaked, Buterin said.
“At the very least, if someone else scans your iris, they can check it against the database to determine whether or not you have a World ID. Potentially, iris scans might reveal more information,” Buterin said.
Another major concern Buterin pointed out is the lack of accessibility. Worldcoin can only be accessed by anyone if they visit an Orb. This limits access to the coin if enough Orbs are not created to ensure everyone can easily access one, and can potentially be a major setback.
In this case, there may be more Orbs in urban areas, limiting access to rural dwellers which is contrary to the goal of cryptocurrencies. Worldcoin however says it uses phone number verification in place of the Orb biometric imaging device.
Another risk according to Buterin is that of centralization. He said Worldcoin’s Orb hardware device may have backdoors that could cause decentralization. He also stated that Worldcoin’s governance and proprietary algorithms are further centralization concerns.
The last concern raised by Buterin was that of security of the system. He mentioned risks such as Phone hacking, coercion into scanning irises for someone else, selling or renting IDs and 3D-printed “fake people” used to dupe the scan for World IDs as some of such risks.
Buterin applauds PoP
In spite of all the concerns raised by the Ethereum CEO, he also acknowledged that the idea of proof-of-personhood in itself is a good one. He said the world needs a PoP system, or it will be dominated by “centralized identity solutions, money, small closed communities or some combination of all three.”
“I look forward to seeing more progress on all types of proof of personhood, and hopefully seeing the different approaches eventually come together into a coherent whole,” Buterin said.
He said if social-graph-based, general-hardware biometric and specialized-hardware biometric techniques are combined and used together, they can greatly reduce these risks, making Worldcoin a better crypto project.