The Kenyan Government has suspended all Worldcoin operations in the country.
Kenya’s Ministry of the Interior, Kithure Kindiki, raised concerns of privacy and data collection when posting its decision on Facebook.
“The Government is concerned by the ongoing activities of an organization calling itself ‘WORLD COIN’ which is involved in the registration of citizens through the collection of eyeball/iris data,” Kindiki said.
The identity crypto solution was co-founded by Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, the artificial intelligence company behind ChatGPT and DALL-E 2.
Worldcoin Investigation underway
Kenya has suspended all “activities” of Worldcoin, which collects iris data through an eyeball-scanning physical orb. This is until “relevant public agencies certify the absence of any risks to the general public whatsoever.”
Investigations are now underway to determine whether this is the case. “Relevant security, financial services and data protection agencies have commenced inquiries,” according to the Facebook statement signed by Minister Kithure Kindiki.
These agencies are looking into the legality of Worldcoin, along with the protection of user data and how the crypto protocol plans on using it.
“Appropriate action will be taken on any natural or juristic person who furthers, aids, abets or otherwise engages in or is connected with the activities afore described.”
What is Worldcoin?
The digital identity and crypto project launched in March 2023 with a goal to solve income inequality and online identity verification.
Its website said: “Worldcoin aims to establish universal access to the global economy regardless of country or background. It is designed to become the world’s largest human identity and financial network, giving ownership to everyone.”
Worldcoin is perhaps best known for its silver physical orb that lets investors interact with the crypto project and the native WLD token. Users scan their eyes to prove their identity. This helps tell apart humans from robots amidst the surge in convincing AI technology.
WLD tokens can then be issued to those whose identity is verified. Over two millions users have signed up to the platform, at the time of writing.
The ERC-20 token is primarily a governance cryptocurrency, according to the Worldcoin documentation. But it can also be used for payments and as a store of value.
As of 2 August, WLD’s price is seeing a slight rise in the short term, despite Kenya’s ban of the crypto project. It is up 3% in the past 24 hours and 44% since the token’s recent launch on 24 July. However it is down 33% from its all-time high that occurred during its launch day price surge.
WLD under scrutiny
Kenya is not the only country to open investigations into the new crypto project. A number of European regulators are scrutinising Worldcoin, including the Information Commissions Office (ICO), the UK’s data watchdog.
Companies and organisations “need to have a clear lawful basis to process personal data. Where they are relying on consent, this needs to be freely given and capable of being withdrawn without detriment,” an ICO spokesperson told Coindesk.
Similarly, a German data watchdog has opened investigations into the crypto project. It raised concerns over large-scale processing of biometric data.
Investigations from The Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Supervision began back in November 2022. There were fears that Worldcoin would process “sensitive data at a very large scale”, the regulator’s president Michael Will told Reuters.
As Worldcoin’s parent company Tools For Humanity is headquartered in Germany, Will explained the Bavarian watchdog is the lead investigator due to the European Union’s data protection laws.
“These technologies are at first sight neither established nor well analysed for the specific core purpose of the processing in the field of transferring financial information,” Will said.