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Worldcoin soon back to business in Kenya

Worldcoin, the multinational cryptocurrency and digital ID firm, is set to resume its operations in Kenya next year following reported successful negotiations with the East African country’s government.

Per a report by Citizen Digital, the firm, whose activities were banned in the country in August over data privacy concerns, has now agreed to meet certain regulatory requirements.

Worldcoin’s activities were halted when Kenyan authorities noticed growing interest in the project which verifies a user’s humanness and uniqueness using their iris biometrics. All those who registered on the platform were issued a digital ID called World ID.

Officials feared about the safety of the biometric data that was collected from hundreds of thousands of Kenyan citizens in exchange for a crypto token after each verification process. About 635,000 Kenyans were said to have downloaded the app as of September.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki was among Kenyan authorities who expressed strong reservations against the World ID project, which has also faced criticism elsewhere around the world over data privacy questions, such as in Argentina. Kenyan lawmakers also criticized it saying it was a threat to the country’s statehood.

Now, the company, co-founded by OpenAI’s Sam Altman and Tools for Humanity’s Alex Blania, is said to be ready to get back to full business in Kenya in the first few months of 2024, according to an unnamed source cited by Citizen Digital.

Blania had acknowledged in a post on X that the company halted its ID verifications in Kenya and was working with the relevant local regulators to address the issues raised by the government.

The Standard notes that the rapid rise in popularity of Worldcoin in Kenya was not only motivated by poverty in the country, it also highlighted regulatory gaps in terms of ensuring the proper management of personal data, as well as the lack of a specific legislation to guide digital currency operations.

Blania speaks on World ID upgrade, growth prospects

Meanwhile, in an interview with CNBC Television, Blania explained the rationale behind the recently announced World ID upgrade which includes the addition of face biometrics for verification.

He says the internet will become very different in the coming years, and the Worldcoin World ID 2.0 upgrade is part of efforts to solve bot problems and to ensure personhood on the cryptocurrency platform. He said Worldcoin developers spent years of effort and a lot of resources to build the system.

The new face biometrics verification protocol created by Tools for Humanity, also enables re-authentication and recovery of lost World ID, says Blania. It also facilitates how other platforms and applications can easily integrate with World ID. The Tools for Humanity CEO also explained how the upgrade works to preserve data privacy of users.

Blania admitted that at the start of the World ID project, he was skeptical about iris biometric scans because it first sounded like a “crazy” idea. He said he was also not very surprised that the project faced a backlash in some countries. However, he believes Worldcoin is one of the fastest growing cryptocurrency apps in the world, and it is looking forward to “expansion and explosive growth” into new markets.

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