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Kenya Suspends Worldcoin’s Iris-Based Cryptocurrency Amid Data Privacy Concerns

In response to growing concerns over data security and protection, Kenya has taken the decision to halt the use of the iris-based cryptocurrency, Worldcoin. The government announced on Wednesday that investigations would be conducted to assess the authenticity, legality, and intended use of the data collected by the company through the registration of citizens using eyeball and iris data.

Worldcoin, a system introduced by Sam Altman, OpenAI CEO, in June, received further scrutiny from European regulators, particularly in France and Germany. During its three-year test phase, two million people registered to receive a digital passport named “World ID.” The initiative involves deploying 1,500 “orbs” worldwide to enable millions of users to sign up, as stated on the Worldcoin website.

In recent reports, thousands of individuals in Nairobi participated in iris scans at the main conference center and commercial malls, receiving virtual currency worth 7,000 shillings (approximately 45 euros). Most users subsequently sold their “tokens” immediately. The token’s value experienced fluctuations, starting at $1.70, rising to $3.58, and then stabilizing at $2.37, according to CoinMarketCap.

Kithure Kindiki, the Cabinet Secretary of Interior and National Coordination, stated that relevant security, financial services, and data protection agencies have initiated investigations to verify the firm’s authenticity, legality, and the safety of the harvested data, as well as the intentions behind its use.

Worldcoin’s unique feature, the World App, acts as an entry point to decentralized finance (DeFi) applications. It allows users to communicate with others who have undergone independent verification via their WorldID and World App, significantly reducing the risk of Sybil attacks. Moreover, the World App can store various crypto tokens, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and USDC.

Worldcoin envisions becoming a blockchain-based digital passport that enables users to authenticate themselves online without revealing private information. To acquire this digital identity, users must undergo an iris scan using the “orb,” a biometric technology developed by Worldcoin.

In light of the data privacy concerns, the Kenyan Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement on Wednesday, announcing the immediate suspension of Worldcoin activities until relevant government agencies certify that there are no risks to the public.

As of now, Worldcoin has yet to respond to the suspension.

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