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Sam Altman's Worldcoin files lawsuit after Spanish ban

People queue to use WorldCoin's iris-scanners in Madrid

By Elizabeth Howcroft and Emma Pinedo

LONDON (Reuters) - Sam Altman's Worldcoin has filed a lawsuit against the Spanish data protection regulator in response to being banned from operating in Spain, a spokesperson for Worldcoin said on Friday.

Worldcoin aims to create a global identity system, and involves people getting their irises scanned in exchange for free cryptocurrency and a digital ID.

Spain's data protection regulator, the AEPD, said on Wednesday that it had told Worldcoin to stop collecting personal information and stop using data it had already gathered.

Worldcoin said in response to the ban that the AEPD was "circumventing EU law" and "spreading inaccurate and misleading claims about our technology".

The AEPD did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Worldcoin said in a statement on its website that the company behind the project, Tools for Humanity, had filed a lawsuit against the AEPD's order.

The statement said that the AEPD had circumvented the "accepted EU process and rules" and "established procedures under GDPR" (the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation), without giving details.

A spokesperson for Worldcoin said that the lawsuit was a motion to suspend the AEPD's order, and that it was submitted to the Administrative Chamber of Spain's High Court.

The company also said it had paused all of its "World ID verification services" in Spain, referring to sign-up sites at which people can get their eyeballs scanned by Worldcoin's "orb" devices.

More than 4 million people in 120 countries have signed up to have their irises scanned by Worldcoin, according to its website. But the project has drawn criticism from privacy campaigners from Argentina to Germany over the collection, storage and use of personal data.

The AEPD said on Wednesday its action against Worldcoin came following complaints regarding insufficient information, the collection of data from minors or not allowing for the withdrawal of consent.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft and Emma Pinedeo; Editing by Tommy Reggiori Wilkes and David Evans)