Less than a week after the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) called on Kenya to be vigilant with Worldcoin, the government has now suspended the crypto project’s activities.
Announcing the suspension on Wednesday morning, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said the government was concerned about Worldcoin’s activities. Worldcoin lets users give their iris scans in exchange for a digital ID and are then issued free cryptocurrency.
The project which was co-founded by Sam Altman, co-founder of OpenAI and Alex Blanca went live globally this week and has seen users flock to its orbs across different parts of the country to be issued with the tokens worth about Ksh.7,000 ($45). However, users are only issued with the tokens once they approve that they’re actually humans and not robots by getting their eye’s unique iris pattern scanned.
The interior CS said authorities were concerned by the project and have launched investigations to ascertain the safety and protection of the data being harvested, and how the harvesters intend to use the data.
“Relevant security, financial services and data protection agencies have commenced inquiries and investigations to establish the authenticity and legality of the aforesaid activities,” Kindiki said.
“Accordingly, the government has suspended forthwith, activities of Worldcoin and any other entity that may be similarly engaging the people of Kenya until relevant public agencies certify the absence of any risks to the general public,” he added.
Kenya is not the first country Worldcoin is facing regulatory hurdles. In the UK for example, the company has come under the scrutiny of data protection regulators according to a report by Reuters. France’s privacy watchdog, CNIL, has also raised concerns about the project expressing its concerns regarding the legitimacy of such a large-scale collection of biometric data.
Worldcoin has not issued any official communication regarding the Kenya ban and concerns raised.
San Francisco and Berlin-based company Tools for Humanity (TFH) is behind Worldcoin. While in beta, the project already had 2 million users.