Spanish Court Upholds Ban on Worldcoin’s Iris Data Collection

Spanish Court Upholds Ban on Worldcoin’s Iris Data Collection

Spain’s National Court, Audiencia Nacional, has affirmed the order issued by the Spanish Data Protection Agency (AEPD), which barred tech firm Worldcoin from continuing its iris-scanning practices and collecting personal data in Spain.

The directive also required the company to block information gathered from nearly 400,000 users who voluntarily participated in this process.


Tools for Humanity Corporation GMBH (TFH), a branch of Worldcoin based in Erlangen, Germany, appealed against this order. The company requested the Audiencia Nacional to provisionally suspend the effects of the resolution that compelled it to halt its practices in Spain.

But the court dismissed their plea, prioritizing the protection of personal data over the economic interests of the company.

Worldcoin’s Venture

Worldcoin, established in 2019 by Sam Altmann, the CEO of ChatGPT OpenAI’s parent company, had captured nearly 400,000 volunteer users in Spain. In exchange for allowing their irises to be scanned, these users were rewarded with digital coins valued between 70 and 80 euros.

This practice, which had started in several parts of the world, came to the attention of the AEPD following four complaints.

AEPD’s Involvement

On February 26, the AEPD put a halt to the company’s activities, warning Worldcoin of potential fines up to 20 million euros if it continued collecting data. This marked the first instance of a precautionary ban of this nature.

Worldcoin’s Appeal

Worldcoin appealed against the decision, claiming it would cause substantial irreparable harm both within Spain and globally. The company also argued that the resolution had overstepped its jurisdiction, stating that the Bavarian authority, where the company is domiciled, should be the competent party to oversee its compliance with data protection laws.

Court’s Decision

The Audiencia Nacional dismissed these arguments, ruling that the AEPD has jurisdiction over the decision to suspend the company’s activities in Spain. However, the court clarified that its decision is temporary and lasts for a maximum of three months.

If the court finds the company’s arguments valid during the main proceedings, it will not prevent Worldcoin from resuming its activities in the future.

Consequences and Implications

The ban on Worldcoin’s iris data collection activities in Spain has put the spotlight on the issues concerning personal data protection. It raises questions about the ethical implications of such practices and the responsibilities that tech companies have to protect user data.