Kenya Is World’s First Nation to Suspend Sam Altman’s Worldcoin

Sam Altman’s Worldcoin Venture Draws Skepticism

Kenya’s government is worried about WorldcoinOpenAI founder Sam Altman’s identity-focused cryptocurrency.

The African nation’s Ministry of the Interior suspended Worldcoin’s operations in Kenya Wednesday (Aug. 2), amid a government investigation, according to a press release.

“The Government is concerned by the ongoing activities of an organization calling itself ‘WORLD COIN’ which is involved in the registration of citizens through the collection of eyeball/iris data,” Minister Kithure Kindiki said in the release on the ministry’s Facebook page.

A spokesperson for Worldcoin told PYMNTS that the demand for the company’s proof of personhood verification services in Kenya had been “overwhelming, ” with tens of thousands of people waiting in lines over a three-day period to secure a World ID.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in an effort to mitigate crowd volume, verification services have been temporarily paused,” the statement from the company said. “During the pause, the team will develop an onboarding program that encompasses more robust crowd control measures and work with local officials to increase understanding of the privacy measures and commitments Worldcoin implements, not only in Kenya, but everywhere.”

Worldcoin debuted late last month intending to capture participants’ biometrics using its proprietary Orb to provide them with a “proof of personhood” before issuing them Worldcoin tokens.

A Wednesday CoinDesk report noted that Kenya is the first country to suspend Worldcoin. It is not, however, the first country to express its reservations.

For example, the U.K’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) told PYMNTS it would be “making further inquiries” into Worldcoin soon after its launch.

Worldcoin responded by saying it complies with all data processing laws in the markets where it is available, including the U.K.

“From its inception, Worldcoin was designed to protect individual privacy,” the company said in an emailed statement to PYMNTS. “The project has implemented privacy-centric design and has built a robust privacy program, conducting a rigorous Data Protection Impact Assessment and responding timely to individual requests to delete their personal data.”

Worldcoin is launching as the two technologies at the heart of its mission — crypto and artificial intelligence (AI) — are “diverging in both public and commercial opinion, with AI making major strides while crypto backslides into uncertainty around its real-world utility.”

The lack of certainty around crypto in the U.S. has kept the company from launching the coin stateside, reportedly leaving it to shed the “crypto” moniker and rebrand as a digital firm.

“When we started thinking about this, we didn’t think it would end up as ‘world minus the U.S. coin’ and here we are,” Altman said last month. “I’d say there’s 95% of the world’s population not in the U.S. The U.S. does not make or break a project like this.”

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