Kenyan authorities have seemingly changed their stance on Worldcoin’s operations, leading to the suspension of the project in the country. Worldcoin, co-founded by Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, aims to provide an identity and cryptocurrency protocol using iris scans for user verification through its hardware device called the Orb.
The company claims that users’ biometric data remains on the device and is erased unless explicit consent is given for Worldcoin to retain it. Upon launch, Orb-verified users were eligible for airdrops of the Worldcoin token.
In a recent TV interview, Eliud Owalo, Kenya’s minister for the digital economy, stated that Worldcoin’s activities align with the country’s data-protection laws, as concluded by the Office of Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) in April. However, the Ministry of the Interior simultaneously announced the suspension of Worldcoin’s operations, citing concerns over financial security and data protection.
Following the conflicting statements, the ODPC and the Communications Authority issued a joint statement, raising regulatory concerns about the project. These include unclear security measures and storage of sensitive data, offering money in exchange for consent, and the potential accumulation of vast amounts of citizen data by private entities.
Worldcoin is facing scrutiny not only in Kenya but also in the U.K., France, and Germany. The project’s future remains uncertain as authorities and regulators closely examine its practices and compliance with data protection regulations.