In response to concerns over data security and privacy, Kenya has announced the suspension of Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency system launched by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in Germany. The Worldcoin cryptocurrency utilizes iris recognition for user verification, and its unique feature is the ability to serve as a blockchain-based digital passport, allowing users to prove their identity without disclosing personal information.
However, the collection of iris data has raised red flags, prompting investigations by European regulators in France and Germany, in addition to the recent action taken by the Kenyan government.
The Kenyan Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement announcing the immediate suspension of Worldcoin activities until relevant government agencies certify that there is no public risk involved. Despite its suspension, Worldcoin had gained popularity in Kenya, where the country has been grappling with high inflation rates.
In Nairobi, thousands of people lined up at shopping malls and the main conference center to undergo iris scans, receiving the equivalent of 7,000 shillings (approximately 45 euros) in virtual currency. However, many individuals promptly resold their “tokens.”
The Kenyan government is particularly concerned about the registration process, where citizens are required to undergo iris scans, and is keen to ascertain the legitimacy, legality, and security of the data collected by Worldcoin and its intended use.
Worldcoin has faced scrutiny from several European regulators and has not yet been made available in the United States, where authorities are striving to establish better regulations for the cryptocurrency sector.
Worldcoin has invested significant time, spending three years developing the project, and attracted two million sign-ups during its test phase for its digital passport, dubbed “World ID.” However, criticism has emerged from some individuals who feel deceived by the company’s promises after agreeing to iris scanning. Worldcoin co-founder Alex Blania acknowledged that communication could have been better in some instances during an interview with BuzzFeed.
The company plans to deploy 1,500 “orbs” worldwide to enable millions of users to sign up for the cryptocurrency. Initially valued at $1.70, the token’s value experienced fluctuations, peaking at $3.58 before dropping to $2.37, according to CoinMarketCap.
As of now, Worldcoin has not responded to the suspension by the Kenyan government. The fate of the cryptocurrency system remains uncertain, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigations and data protection concerns raised by authorities worldwide.