Worldcoin faces setback in Kenya as operations halted

The Kenyan government declared that all Worldcoin activities will be suspended until public agencies ensure there are no risks to the general public

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Rokas Tenys/iemrah/Shutterstock, modified by Blockworks

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Kenya has suspended Worldcoin operations in the country due to concerns about public safety and the integrity of financial transactions.

The country’s Interior Cabinet Secretary, Kithure Kindiki, announced on Wednesday that all related activities would be suspended until relevant public agencies confirm there are no risks to the general public.

“It will be critical that assurances of public safety and the integrity of the financial transactions involving such a large number of citizens be satisfactorily provided upfront,” the politician said in a statement posted to Facebook.

Any individual or legal entity found involved in, supporting, aiding or abetting Worldcoin activity will face appropriate actions as deemed necessary, he added.

The Worldcoin Foundation told Blockworks that demand for its “proof of personhood” verification services in Kenya resulted in tens of thousands of individuals queuing for three days to obtain a World ID.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in an effort to mitigate crowd volume, verification services have been temporarily paused,” a spokesperson said.

“During the pause, the team will develop an onboarding program that encompasses more robust crowd control measures and work with local officials to increase understanding of the privacy measures and commitments Worldcoin implements, not only in Kenya, but everywhere,” they said.

Worldcoin, unveiled on July 24, requires users to provide iris scans to obtain a digital ID, also called “World ID.”

In some countries, users are offered a cryptocurrency reward as part of the initiative to establish “universal access to the global economy.”

The central feature of the project’s World ID is the use of a biometric marker, an iris scan, to distinguish humans from artificial intelligence (AI) bots. Individuals who register for this service in jurisdictions that allow it receive Worldcoin’s cryptocurrency token, WLD.

The primary objective of this digital identification system is to link your “World ID” to websites and applications, replacing conventional logins. This process verifies your real identity without the need to disclose personal information such as names and emails.

In the realm of AI development, a digital ID such as this could be crucial to differentiate humans from AI bots on the internet, according to Worldcoin. 

The project’s mission appears to be to protect individuals from AI misinformation and establish clarity in identifying trustworthy sources online.

Read More: Worldcoin is here — just not here in the US

UK, Germany and France probe Worldcoin over data handling

The Kenyan government’s decision follows investigations by other government agencies into the project. 

Arthur Cheong, founder of crypto investment firm DeFiance Capital, said that more countries are likely to follow suit soon. According to him, gathering sensitive eyeball biometric data by a single private company, not under the respective government’s jurisdiction, is deemed too critical and sensitive.

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The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) revealed last week that it will be conducting inquiries regarding the project.

In a statement to Blockworks, the ICO clarified its action, emphasizing that organizations must have a valid and legal basis for processing personal data. A spokesperson highlighted that if they rely on consent, it must be given freely and withdrawable without any adverse effects.

Since Nov. 2022, a German data authority has been conducting an independent investigation into the project due to concerns about the extensive handling of sensitive biometric data. 

Furthermore, France’s privacy watchdog has also initiated its own investigation into the matter.

Updated Aug. 2, 2023 at 1:04 pm ET: Added comment from Worldcoin spokesperson.


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