Kenya Suspends Worldcoin Cryptocurrency Amid Privacy Concerns

By Liz Anyango

4th August 2023

Nairobi, Kenya: The Kenyan government has temporarily suspended the registration of the Worldcoin cryptocurrency project in the country to assess its risks.

Worldcoin, founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, launched in Kenya on Monday, July 24th, awarding users with free tokens, referred to as WLD, to people who agree to have their eyeballs scanned.

“Inquiries and investigations have been initiated by important security, financial services, and data protection organizations to verify the truthfulness and legality of the mentioned activities,” stated Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki.

This week, thousands of Kenyans have been queuing at special places to sign up for the free cryptocurrency tokens reported to be worth around 7,000 Kenyan Shillings ($49).

“I have been here for hours, and from what I hear on TikTok, all I have to do is scan my iris and I get free money, what do I have to lose?” said Ms. Lilian Nyaboke, a jobless graduate.

After looking into Worldcoin’s activities, the Communications Authority of Kenya and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner expressed concerns about how the biometric data was stored, offering money in exchange for data, and having so much data in the hands of a private company.

The project has also come under scrutiny in Britain, Germany, and France, where the domestic data watchdog has said it will be “making further inquiries” about it.

In response, the Worldcoin Foundation stated that during the suspension, they will collaborate with authorities to enhance awareness about the privacy measures they have established both in Kenya and in other locations where they operate.

Since its launch, people around the world, including in Kenya, Germany, Spain, and France, have been flocking to registration sites to get their eyes scanned by a shiny spherical “orb.”

Worldcoin says their intention is to give everyone on earth access to the global economy by giving them a verified digital identity, free cryptocurrency tokens, and a crypto wallet.

According to Worldcoin founders Altman and Alex Blania, the progress in artificial intelligence (AI) has made it increasingly difficult to tell whether online activity came from real humans or AI, necessitating the “proof of personhood” through the retinal scans.

“The idea is to make a digital currency that everyone all over the world could use, no matter how much money they have or if they can use regular banks. The goal was to include as many people as possible,” Altman said on Twitter.

The company insists that no data is stored, even as experts warn that this is sensitive data that warrants caution.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) in Kenya has urged the public to exercise heightened caution while using Worldcoin, emphasizing the necessity for showcasing adequate safeguards in accordance with the provisions outlined in the Data Protection Act of 2019.

Eye scan exercise

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