Kenya Halts Worldcoin Signups Citing Public Safety

  • Worldcoin signups in Kenya were suspended on Wednesday pending investigations into privacy concerns and public risk posed by the project, said the Ministry of the Interior.
  • Sam Altman’s iris-scanning project previously named Kenya’s capital city Nairobi as a major point of demand, garnering hundreds of thousands of sign-ups as of December 2022.
  • France’s watchdog also voiced concerns about the project’s legality after last week’s launch and token airdrop to over 2 million participants worldwide.

Kenya’s Ministry of the Interior on Wednesday suspended the activities of Worldcoin, an identity-focused crypto project co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman which launched last week.

The government is reportedly concerned about Altman’s crypto endeavor which the Kenyan ministry described as being “involved in the registration of citizens through collection of eyeball/iris data.”

Authorities in Kenya cited possible risks to public safety, privacy concerns, and data security as reasons for the decision. The Ministry also halted the activities of other entities that may be harvesting data from citizens until such time that authorities are able to ensure the safety of citizens.

Relevant security, financial services and data protection agencies have commenced inquiries and investigations to establish the authenticity and legality of the aforesaid activities, the safety and protection of the data being harvested, and how the harvesters intend to use the data.

Kenya’s capital city Nairobi was a hotspot for Worldcoin registration last year, accounting for around 250,000 signups as of December 2022. As today’s announcement could come as a roadblock for Altman’s Worldcoin, the project also stirred controversy in other jurisdictions following its debut.

Worldcoin Controversy

Upon its launch and token airdrop to 2 million subscribers worldwide, most of whom reside in the global South, Worldcoin was met with doubts stemming from privacy concerns. The project operates by issuing a digital ID after participants scan their eyeballs/iris with an Orb. A token under the ticker WLD is also issued although the project is geofenced and unavailable in jurisdictions like the U.S.

Financial watchdogs in France and Germany voiced skepticism over the project’s data collection, highlighting concerns about data leaks, and Worldcoin’s presence in so-called third-world/underdeveloped regions.