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Kenya suspends eyeball-scanning crypto worldcoin

Kenya has suspended a controversial cryptocurrency launched by the creator of ChatGPT over concerns for public safety.

Worldcoin, founded by OpenAI boss Sam Altman, requires users to scan their eyeballs in order to receive a free share of the crypto token WLD

More than 350,000 people have already signed up in Kenya, according to local reports, representing a significant portion of the roughly 2 million users worldwide.

Interior minister Kithure Kindiki said investigations were underway into how Worldcoin intends to use people’s data.

“Relevant security, financial services and data protection agencies have commenced inquiries and investigations to establish the authenticity and legality of the aforesaid activities,” Mr Kindiki said.

Worldcoin claims that biometric data obtained during the signup process is only used to verify a person’s “unique personhood” and is not linked to any individual’s identity.

“Worldcoin remains committed to providing an inclusive, privacy-preserving, decentralised on-ramp to the global digital economy and looks forward to resuming its services in Kenya while working closely with local regulators and other stakeholders,” the company said in a statement.

Iris-scanning orbs are currently operating in 35 cities across 20 countries, according to Worldcoin, including in London, Paris and New York.

Worldcoin, which offers people free cryptocurrency in exchange for their biometric data, launched on 24 July, 2023


Before Kenya announced the suspension, large crowds that formed in Nairobi at Worldcoin signup stations had been termed a “security risk”. Those who signed up received a share worth roughly $50 (£40), with Worldcoin claiming the project could eventually lead to a universal basic income.

The WLD crypto token saw its price surge more than 50 per cent shortly after its launch last week, bucking broader market trends that have seen bitcoin and other leading cryptocurrencies dip in price during the same period.

Cryptocurrency experts have described the project as both “outlandish” and “revolutionary” for its unique way to differentiate humans from AI bots, however digital rights lawyers warn that it poses a major challenge for regulators.

“The launch of Worldcoin is a serious concern for data-protection and crypto regulatory bodies, and demonstrates the urgent need for cross sector and cross border regulation,”Richard Cannon, Partner at Stokoe Partnership Solicitors, told The Independent.

“Worldcoin claims that once its systems are optimised it will anonymise and destroy users’ biometric data, but are yet to provide clarity regarding when this will happen, and have given no indication as to how the data is safely and securely stored.”

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