Kenya’s interior minister, Kithure Kindiki has confirmed the suspension of the new crypto project, Worldcoin on Wednesday, according to a report by Reuters. The authorities confirmed that it has suspended the local activities of the project while government agencies assess potential risks to public safety.
Last Friday, the Kenyan data regulator, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC), in a statement released on X (formerly Twitter), said it is conducting an “assessment of Worldcoin’s practices to ensure compliance with the law.”
The data regulator urged “increased vigilance” by Kenyans. The country’s Data Commissioner, Immaculate Kassait also warned of the consequences to token recipients and issuers should the data regulator fail to ensure that Worldcoin and others complied with the law.
In the statement, ODPC stated that Worldcoin’s activities in the East African nation are governed by the country’s 2019 Data Protection Act. The Kenyan protection data law gives the ODPC the authority to conduct assessments or request information which helps it ascertain if Worldcoin is adhering to the law.
“As the ODPC conducts its assessment of Worldcoin’s practices to ensure compliance with the law, Kenyans are urged to ensure they receive proper information before disclosing any personal or sensitive data. Individuals are advised to thoroughly inquire about how their data will be used.”
But now, the minister of interior, Kithure Kindiki in a statement reported by Reuters, said the government is concerned with Worldcoin’s activities. He also said agencies would probe how it intends to use the data it gathers. He said action would be taken against anyone who engages with its activities.
“Relevant security, financial services and data protection agencies have commenced inquiries and investigations to establish the authenticity and legality of the aforesaid activities.”
Note that the OpenAI CEO, Sam Altman, said the Worldcoin crypto project which was launched last week requires users to give their iris scans in exchange for a digital ID. In some countries, users also get free cryptocurrency as part of plans to create a new “identity and financial network”.
The Worldcoin craze in Kenya
This warning and prohibition follow reports that Kenyans were lining up in droves to get their eyeballs scanned by Worldcoin orbs located at the supermarket chain Quickmart’s 13 outlets in Nairobi.
Local media reports that more than 350,000 Kenyans had signed up for Worldcoin as of yesterday, in exchange for the free WLD tokens worth around 7,000 Kenyan shillings ($49.09). Reports say the Kenyan residents who signed up received 25 WLD tokens, and converted the tokens to USDT before eventually converting the stablecoins to Kenyan shillings.
It is apparent that the Kenyans who rushed to get their eyeballs scanned only did so after learning of the opportunity to get easy money via the WLD tokens. According to Brian Mwangi, one of the WLD token recipients (reported by Bitcoin.com):
“I was here by 5 am because there has been a lot of talk on Tik Tok and Instagram about the free money Worldcoin is giving all those who download their app and subscribe, we are for the iris scanner so that we can be sorted.”
Since its launch, people around the world including Germany, Spain and France have been flocking to registration sites to get their eyes scanned by the shiny spherical orb. Authorities in the United Kingdom, Germany and France had already launched a similar inquiry into Worldcoin practices before Kenya.
One can only imagine the havoc the Worldcoin craze would cause when it becomes available in Nigeria, considering the current economic realities in the country.
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