More than 100,000 people have had their eyes scanned for free cryptocurrency

People in Chile with Worldcoin's "Orb" iris scanner.

Enlarge / People in Chile with Worldcoin’s “Orb” iris scanner.

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More than 100,000 people have had their eyes scanned in return for a cryptocurrency called Worldcoin, as a project to distribute digital money more widely around the world accelerates.

Worldcoin has distributed about 30 iris-scanning hardware devices, which they call “orbs,” to early users on four continents, who get rewards for signing up more people. Orbs take photos of a user’s eyeballs, creating a unique code that can be used to claim free digital tokens.

The project’s developers said on Thursday they planned to release hundreds of orbs in the coming months and eventually distribute 4,000 devices per month. The team plans to debut the cryptocurrency network early next year and begin giving away the tokens at that time. They have not said how much cryptocurrency users can expect to receive.

Worldcoin amounts to one of the most ambitious and complex attempts to hand out cryptocurrency to the world’s population, similar to the economic concept of universal basic income. The project has already faced feverish criticism, and its own developers admit the “outcome is uncertain.”

Alex Blania, the cofounder of Worldcoin, denied that the project would invade people’s privacy, saying that the orbs convert iris scans into unique strings of letters and numbers before permanently deleting the images.

The resulting code would simply be used to check whether a user has already claimed a share of the Worldcoin tokens.

“Even if I would have your iris code in one form or another, I would have no chance to find out who you actually are on the blockchain,” Blania said, referring to the digital ledgers that underpin cryptocurrencies. Worldcoin is built on the ethereum blockchain.

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