The past week has witnessed a global wave of anticipation and enthusiasm surrounding Worldcoin, the groundbreaking cryptocurrency venture spearheaded by Sam Altman, the visionary behind US-based AI powerhouse OpenAI. This emerging cryptocurrency has captured the imagination of thousands, particularly in Kenya, where over 350,000 individuals have eagerly registered for Worldcoin. The registration process involves a unique and intriguing method—participants have been flocking to designated locations to have their irises scanned through an innovative orb, granting them access to a digital identity dubbed the “World ID.”
Intriguingly, despite growing international and local concerns about data security and privacy, Kenyans have embraced the opportunity, lining up at shopping malls and registration centers across Nairobi for the chance to have their irises scanned. The incentive? A tempting offer of 25 free cryptocurrency tokens, aptly named WLD, which currently hold an impressive value of Ksh.8,256, with each token trading at Ksh.344.90.
However, this excitement has been met with a recent development—on Wednesday, the government took the unexpected step of suspending all activities associated with the Worldcoin cryptocurrency project. This move came in response to the mounting concerns surrounding data security and its potential implications.
Worldcoin has, on its part, asserted that user data remains securely protected within the cryptocurrency project’s framework. The platform offers users the option to either delete their data or have it stored in an encrypted format. The project’s website explicitly states that during the World App download process, no personal data, such as names, phone numbers, or addresses, is fetched from users.
A pivotal question emerges: What data does Worldcoin collect from users during the registration process? According to Worldcoin’s website, personal data like names, phone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses are not required for individuals seeking to obtain a World ID. Instead, images captured by the orb are utilized to generate a distinct iris code. The company emphasizes that these images are, by default, promptly deleted once the iris code is generated, unless the user chooses to opt into Data Custody.
“The World ID sign-up process is only intended to verify an individual’s uniqueness,” states Worldcoin. Users have the freedom to provide additional data, though this is entirely optional and includes details like email addresses for subscribing to the Worldcoin newsletter.
With data privacy and security at the forefront, Worldcoin assures users that any personal data shared is encrypted both in transit and when at rest. The Worldcoin Foundation asserts a stringent policy of not sharing any personal data, including biometric information, with parties not directly involved in the Worldcoin project. This policy extends to data sales as well.
Moreover, Worldcoin emphasizes that it never acquires any biometric data without explicit consent from users. This sentiment aligns with the stance of ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo, who cited voluntary data sharing during discussions about the project’s legality and operations in Kenya.
However, this unique data collection approach has prompted regulatory scrutiny in Europe, particularly within EU member states governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Regulatory bodies in the United Kingdom and France have expressed reservations about the biometric data collection methods employed by Worldcoin.
As the cryptocurrency landscape continues to evolve, the excitement surrounding Worldcoin’s innovative approach is undeniable. Yet, with data security and privacy concerns looming large, the project finds itself navigating a complex terrain of regulation, transparency, and user trust. The recent government suspension of activities serves as a reminder of the delicate balance that must be struck between technological innovation and safeguarding user rights. As the crypto world watches with bated breath, the fate of Worldcoin hangs in the balance, poised between promise and precaution.