Kenyan Government Suspends WorldCoin Amid Data Privacy Concerns

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The Kenyan government has suspended the operations of WorldCoin, a blockchain project co-founded by Sam Altman of OpenAI, over concerns regarding data privacy.

Kenyan government has suspended the operations of WorldCoin, a blockchain project co-founded by OpenAI’s Sam Altman, due to concerns over data privacy. The suspension comes as thousands of Kenyans queued up to scan their irises in exchange for a $54 token, drawing significant attention to the registration process.

The Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Coordination, Kithure Kindiki, expressed the government’s concern over the activities of WorldCoin, particularly its collection of eyeball/iris data from citizens. The government suspended WorldCoin and any similar entities engaging with Kenyan citizens, citing data privacy concerns.

The suspension raised questions about WorldCoin’s registration status in Kenya as a data processor. It was revealed that WorldCoin’s parent company, Tools for Humanity, had been duly registered as a data controller in Kenya under the Data Protection Act, 2021. However, the government did not provide a clear reason for the suspension.

Implications and Investigations

The government initiated investigations into the authenticity and legality of WorldCoin’s activities, data safety, and protection, and the intended use of the harvested data. Regulatory agencies are looking into public safety and the integrity of financial transactions involving a large number of citizens.

Failure to adhere to the Data Protection Act 2021 provisions can result in fines, with penalties of up to KES 5 million ($35,000) or 1% of the company’s annual turnover. Individuals who do not comply may face fines of up to KES 3 million ($21,000) or imprisonment for up to ten years.

The Capital Markets Authority of Kenya (CMA) cautioned Kenyans about WorldCoin, stating that it is not regulated in Kenya and advising citizens to be cautious of potential fraudulent schemes related to cryptocurrency tokens.

While the government suspended WorldCoin, Dennis Itumbi, Kenya’s Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of ICT, expressed support for the platform and encouraged Kenyans to explore cryptocurrencies, highlighting the need for careful consideration.

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