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A newly released cryptocurrency called Worldcoin promises to have a fair and free distribution, but there's a catch. Those looking to get in on the free token distribution have to get their eyes scanned by an orb device the coin's team has built.


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The new project is funded by a number of big investors including the Andreeson Horowitz a16z fund, the founder and CEO of FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried, Digital Currency Group and Coinbase. 

The project itself was co-founded by Alex Blania, the CEO of Worldcoin, and the CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman. The use of the orb for iris scanning is apparently meant to ensure that each individual can receive some Worldcoin and that no person can fake the system to be paid twice. 

The project is built as a second layer on top of the Ethereum network. It works by having what is called Orb Operators who apply to receive an orb for scanning people's eyes within their own communities. 

The Worldcoin site says that Orb Operators "have the autonomy to build their operations from the ground up, doing everything from running their own marketing campaigns to collaborating with local partners."

Worldcoin has distributed orbs to 25 different operators in Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. Worldcoin plans to ramp this up to the point where up to 4,000 orb devices are distributed per month.

The system works by first capturing an image a of QR code on a user's phone. It then scans the new user's iris and generates a hash in the blockchain that Worldcoin is calling an IrisHash. It then determines if the user has been scanned before. If the user has not been scanned then they receive Worldcoin.

The Worldcoin site describes the process like this:

https://worldcoin.org/how-it-works

https://worldcoin.org/how-it-works

As described, the users' accounts are not connected to the biometric data collected (Iris scans) in an effort to maintain user privacy. That said, the Worldcoin site does reference a database that will hold users' biometric data. 

While data in this database will not be connected to identities, it seems that it will be a centralized database controlled by members of the Worldcoin team. It's likely that much of the value to early investors stems from the collection of this data and the insights it can provide.  

So far at least 130,000 people have looked into an orb and received some of the currency. 

Members of the crypto community on Twitter have called out concerns over the project, calling the idea of a venture capital-backed crypto project scanning people's eyes. 

Others were more direct in their callout of the project: