The internet went wild after the announcement of the launch of Worldcoin, a supposed self-identity project for each person in the world with a crypto token, WDL, attached to it. The ambitious project, created by Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI’s company Tools for Humanity seeks to create a robust proof-of-personhood system using sophisticated biometrics.
Worldcoin’s approach involves scanning users’ irises with specialized hardware called “the Orb” to provide universal identification. The project plans to distribute these Orbs globally and offer a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to everyone.
While this sounds good, Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of the second largest cryptocurrency and blockchain network, Ethereum has called out the pros and cons of Worldcoin.
Why Proof of Personhood is needed
Describing why such a system is important in today’s world, the programmer said that Proof of Personhood is valuable as it addresses anti-spam and anti-concentration-of-power issues without relying on centralized authorities and revealing minimal information.
Without proof of personhood, decentralized governance can be easily captured by wealthy actors and services may resort to high access fees, excluding legitimate users. Major applications often use government-backed identity systems, sacrificing privacy and being susceptible to government interference.
He added that Proof of personhood projects like Worldcoin, Proof of Humanity, and Circles offer applications such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) tokens, airdrops, token sales with favorable terms for less-wealthy users, voting in DAOs, and protection against bots in social media.
These mechanisms aim to foster openness, and democracy, and avoid centralized control and domination by the wealthiest users. Effective proof-of-personhood solutions can provide the security needed for these applications without the drawbacks of existing centralized approaches.
Dangers of using Worldcoin
According to the Ethereum co-founder, the first issue he has with the Worldcoin project is privacy. He noted that the registry of iris scans, which the project uses to register users, poses a risk of revealing sensitive information. While the scans are meant to verify World IDs, there’s a concern that unauthorized access to the database could disclose more personal data.
Secondly, he said that in terms of accessibility, World IDs, as Worldlcoin says it will create, may not be reliably accessible unless there is widespread distribution of the necessary hardware, Orbs. Ensuring global access to these devices is essential for the system to function effectively.
Vitalik, a prominent figure in the world of “decentralization,” highlighted the next challenge: centralization. He expressed concerns about the Orb, a hardware device used on the Worldcoin platform, stating that it lacks a reliable way to verify its construction and is vulnerable to potential backdoors. This raises concerns about the Worldcoin Foundation’s ability to manipulate the system by creating fake identities.
Furthermore, he mentioned the project’s inadequate security system. Vitalik pointed out security risks such as hacking users’ phones, coercing users into false identity verification, and the potential creation of “fake people” who can pass the iris scan and obtain World IDs.
After sharing his sentiments on the Worldcoin project, Vitalik gave a recommendation, based on how the Ethereum community has been developing a Proof of Personhood solution, on what a better Proof of Personhood system should be like for the world.
He said that the three basic systems used for Proof of Personhood today – specialized-hardware biometrics, general-purpose biometrics, and social-graph-based – have unique advantages and disadvantages.
The best way to use the different systems is to “combine them for a more robust solution.” He added that he sees a future with alternative specialized-hardware solutions from which users can choose from in the field of personhood verification.
“The development of proof-of-personhood systems involves risks and potential conflicts between business interests and community needs,” he said.
“Vigilance is essential, and the community should push for open-sourcing tech, third-party audits, and more alternatives in each category.”