Kenya bans Worldcoin activities as citizens trade biometrics for tokens
Worldcoin, which says it wants to build a “more human internet” with its World ID credential and globular iris scanning device, has been told that the its plan is not welcome in Kenya until its biometric data collection practices have passed a legal assessment, according to Africa News.
The country’s Ministry of Home Affairs announced it is suspending Worldcoin’s enrollments and cryptocurrency issuance while “the relevant government agencies certify the absence of any risk to the public.”
Worldcoin, which was founded by OpenAI’s Sam Altman, is doling out free crypto to anyone who undergoes an iris scan by staring into the eye of the Orb, its somewhat dystopian looking biometric capture and imaging device. In Kenya, tokens are worth approximately 7700 shillings, or around US$54 – no small amount when the national gross income per capita is around US$2,170. The offer has worked, with thousands of people showing out in the capital of Nairobi this week to trade their iris scans for crypto and a digital ID.
But concerns about Worldcoin’s commitment to privacy and the legality of its practices mean that, for now, anyone left holding a Worldcoin token will have to wait to cash it. Although the company’s parent, Tools for Humanity GmbH, is registered with the data commissioner as a data processor, and can legally collect private data from residents, privacy experts say there is no guarantee that it will do what it says with whatever data it collects. As well, there have been questions about the biometric security of the Orb, after malware was found on operators’ personal devices.
Despite such concerns, Worldcoin is forging ahead with its plan for global domination, aiming to deploy 1,500 Orbs around the world. As reported by Reuters, the company wants to build a massive financial and identity community that can be of use to organizations, businesses, and governments. Regional manager for Europe, Ricardo Macieira, says the infrastructure could provide a framework for universal basic income and “global democratic processes.” Or, on a smaller scale, cafes wanting to give away freebies while deterring people from taking multiples could scan their customers’ irises to make sure they take one coffee, and no more.
“The idea is that anyone can in the future build their own orb and use it to benefit the community that it’s aiming for,” says Macieira, who confirmed that Worldcoin intends to continue expanding operations in Europe, Latin America and Africa, as well as “all the parts of the world that will accept us.”
Kenya joins regulators in the UK, France, Germany, and Mexico who have all launched investigations into the legality and ethics of Worldcoin’s biometric capture and storage practices.