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Kenya Drops Probe into Worldcoin, Clearing Path for Resumption

Kenyan authorities have dropped their investigation into Worldcoin, a controversial cryptocurrency and digital identity project co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. This decision potentially paves the way for the project’s return to Kenya after being suspended in August 2023.

Worldcoin Investigation Outcome

On June 14, 2024, Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) announced the closure of its probe into Worldcoin. The investigation was initially launched due to allegations of illegal collection and transfer of sensitive personal data. According to a statement from the DCI, the probe was thorough and objective, addressing various concerns about Worldcoin’s activities in Kenya in 2022 and 2023.

Following the investigation, the DCI submitted its findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for independent review. The DPP concurred with the DCI’s conclusions and directed that the case be closed with no further police action.

While the probe’s closure marks a significant win for Worldcoin, it comes with specific recommendations to ensure future compliance. Worldcoin must now register its business with Kenya’s Registrar of Business Registry, obtain the necessary licenses from the Data Protection Commission, and thoroughly vet and legally contract all third-party vendors operating within the country.

Thomas Scott, Chief Legal Officer at Tools for Humanity, the developer behind Worldcoin, expressed gratitude for the fair investigation and the positive outcome. He emphasized that this decision represents a new beginning for Worldcoin in Kenya.

Worldcoin’s Controversies

Launched in July 2023 after three years of development, Worldcoin aims to differentiate humans from artificial intelligence by scanning individuals’ irises. The project issues a World ID after the scan, allowing users to prove their human identity online. However, this unique digital ID system has raised significant privacy concerns among regulators globally.

In Kenya, Worldcoin’s operations were suspended just weeks after its launch due to these privacy issues. The Kenyan government halted all activities related to biometric identification, citing concerns over the legality and use of the collected data. Despite these hurdles, Worldcoin continued to work with Kenyan authorities to address these issues and resume operations.

Kenya is not the only country where Worldcoin has faced regulatory challenges. The project has also encountered scrutiny in India, South Korea, Germany, Brazil, and Hong Kong. In May 2024, Hong Kong authorities ordered Worldcoin to cease operations over privacy violations, highlighting the global apprehension about the project’s data collection practices.

Despite these setbacks, Worldcoin has experienced substantial growth. By April 2024, the World App, which supports Worldcoin’s operations, boasted 10 million registered users, with an average of 2 million daily users and over 5 million monthly active users.

Looking Ahead

With the investigation behind it, Worldcoin now has the opportunity to restart its operations in Kenya, provided it adheres to the regulatory requirements set forth by the DCI and DPP. This development could reignite the enthusiasm seen in Kenya prior to the suspension, where the ID verification service had become immensely popular, leading to queues that lasted for days.

As Worldcoin navigates its regulatory landscape, its success in Kenya could serve as a model for its operations in other countries, demonstrating the importance of compliance and collaboration with local authorities. The project’s journey underscores the complex interplay between innovative technology and regulatory frameworks in the rapidly evolving world of digital identity and cryptocurrency.

Featured image courtesy of pixabay

Edwin Kinoti

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