- Kenya has suspended the Worldcoin project, an AI-crypto scheme spearheaded by Sam Altman.
- Privacy regulators globally are scrutinizing the data-protection implications of Worldcoin.
- The project is halted in Kenya until potential public risks are evaluated and determined.
Kenya has become the first nation to suspend Worldcoin, the AI-cryptocurrency project backed by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, amid scrutiny from privacy regulators worldwide. The decision comes as concerns grow about data-protection implications and potential public risks posed by the project, which aims to create a system for distinguishing humans from AI.
Worldcoin’s Journey and Challenges in Kenya
Worldcoin’s objective is multi-faceted, seeking to validate human identities through eye scans and incentivize participation with the distribution of a new cryptocurrency, WLD. The scheme has suggested a future pathway towards AI-funded universal basic income (UBI) as automation supplants human jobs. However, the offering is currently not accessible to U.S. participants.
Kenya played a substantial role in the project’s initial phase, hosting 18 of Worldcoin’s iris-scanning sites, referred to as Orbs. Approximately 350,000 Kenyans signed up for the program, each receiving 25 WLD. However, the country’s interior ministry recently suspended all Worldcoin activities pending a comprehensive assessment of the project’s public risk and data-protection implications.
In response, Worldcoin announced it had voluntarily halted its verification services in Kenya, stating it will work with local authorities to enhance their understanding of the project’s privacy measures and commitments. The company continues its global operations undeterred by the Kenyan suspension. Ricardo Macieira, the Europe General Manager at Tools for Humanity – the firm behind Worldcoin, envisages the project rolling out worldwide to regions willing to participate. He described Worldcoin as an infrastructure that third parties could employ, including businesses such as coffee shops looking to manage customer promotions more efficiently.
Data protection authorities are investigating the biometric data collection process implemented by Worldcoin. While the project asserts it does not store any biometric data, the EU and Kenyan privacy laws impose stringent conditions on such data collection. These laws require explicit and freely given user consent, which may pose a challenge for Worldcoin due to the project’s lengthy consent form and privacy notice.
The long-term viability of Worldcoin hinges on acceptance by governments and private businesses. Past initiatives, such as Facebook’s Libra scheme, met resistance due to privacy concerns and potential threats to central banks. Worldcoin could face similar obstacles. However, with the recent suspension in Kenya, it remains to be seen how other governments will respond to this ambitious project.