Kenya’s Interior Ministry has suspended the local activities of cryptocurrency project Worldcoin amid potential risks to public safety.
Worldcoin is an OpenAI project, co-founded by Sam Altman and Alex Blania. It launched just over a week ago after three years in development. The project uses World ID, dubbed “digital passport” where users provide iris scans to prove they are not AI bots. The iris is scanned by Worldcoin’s “orb”, a silver bowling ball lookalike. In some countries where it has launched, including Kenya, users also receive free cryptocurrencies. In Kenya, users were receiving free cryptocurrency tokens worth around KES 7,000 (€49) in Worldcoin’s efforts to establish a new “identification and financial network.”
Kenya is the first country to suspend Worldcoin. In a statement, Interior Minister Kithurie Kindiki reported that authorities ” have commenced inquiries and investigations to establish the authenticity and legality of the aforesaid activities.”
Preliminary investigations by Kenyan authorities have revealed potential issues. These include the possibility that getting customer agreement in exchange for a financial reward amounted to enticement. Kindiki reiterated that government agencies would probe how Worldcoin intends to use collected data. Subsequently, Worldcoin Foundation announced it will use the time of the suspension to cooperate with the relevant authorities to improve understanding of the privacy protections it has in place in Kenya and anywhere it has a presence.
Worldcoin released a statement saying that it “remains committed to delivering an inclusive, privacy-preserving, decentralized on-ramp to the global digital economy” and that it “looks forward to resuming its services in Kenya while working closely with local regulators and other stakeholders.”
Kenyan media have reported that more than 350,000 Kenyans had signed up for Worldcoin as of Tuesday, in exchange for free cryptocurrency tokens worth around 7,000 Kenyan shillings ($49).
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