Worldcoin Launch Draws Concern from Kenya’s Data Protection Commissioner

Data Protection Concerns and Ethical Dilemmas Surrounding Worldcoin's Iris Data Collection in Kenya

The highly anticipated launch of Worldcoin, a cryptocurrency claiming it aims to establish equal access to the global economy, has finally gone live. However, the large queues forming outside different parts of Kenya have raised concerns as very many rush to get their eyes scanned to sign up, and make money. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) has issued a statement urging Kenyans to exercise caution while engaging with Worldcoin and sharing their personal data.

ODPC Cautions Kenyans on Worldcoin and Data Protection

The ODPC’s statement calls for vigilance from the public as they interact with Worldcoin’s data processing activities, particularly the iris data collection through specialized devices known as Orbs. Worldcoin has been collecting this data at various malls in Kenya since last year when the country was part of the testing phase before the global launch. The Data Protection Act, which was enacted in 2019, mandates that entities processing personal data adhere to strict privacy safeguards.

The Data Commissioner, Immaculate Kassait, emphasized the responsibility of data controllers to process personal data in accordance with the law. Failure to do so could not only jeopardize individuals’ privacy but also expose organizations to legal and reputational repercussions. The ODPC’s primary focus is to ensure that entities processing personal data in Kenya comply with the Data Protection Act, safeguarding the privacy of Kenyan citizens.

Introducing Worldcoin

Worldcoin, co-founded by Sam Altman, a tech entrepreneur and CEO of OpenAI, and Alex Blania, aims to provide a unique tool to distinguish humans from AI. The cryptocurrency functions based on iris scanning through Orb devices, which grant users a World ID, a confidential digital identity. This identity verifies the user’s authenticity and uniqueness, rewarding them with Worldcoin tokens and other digital currencies stored in the World App.

The vision of Worldcoin is to distribute its tokens to every individual worldwide, ensuring equal access to the global economy. To achieve this, the cryptocurrency has undergone testing in various countries for the past three years, including Kenya, among others. The company plans to make 1,500 orbs available in 35 cities across 20 countries by the end of the year to onboard new users for free.

Data Protection Concerns and Public Skepticism

Despite Worldcoin’s ambitious mission, there are concerns and skepticism surrounding the cryptocurrency’s approach:

  1. Privacy Concerns: Critics are wary of Worldcoin’s use of eye-scanning orbs for digital identity, which raises privacy concerns. Collecting and storing biometric data such as iris scans require stringent security measures to safeguard against potential misuse.
  2. Distribution Model: Some users have reported issues with receiving tokens or accessing their wallets, raising concerns about the cryptocurrency’s distribution model.
  3. Early Adopter Advantage: The distribution model may lead to a small group of early adopters holding a disproportionate amount of the token supply, potentially skewing the distribution process.
  4. Centralization: Worldcoin’s vision of creating an inclusive economy contradicts the decentralized and trustless nature of blockchain technology, causing some to question the motives behind the project.

Should You Try Worldcoin?

As the launch of Worldcoin unfolds, individual investors and users are urged to carefully assess the potential risks and benefits of participating in the platform. While the concept of providing equal access to cryptocurrency has noble intentions, the concerns raised by critics and data protection authorities should not be ignored. It is essential for Kenyans and individuals worldwide to exercise caution and thoroughly understand the implications of sharing their sensitive data.

As the ODPC continues its engagement with Worldcoin to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act, the responsibility lies with both the company and the users to safeguard the privacy and security of personal data in this rapidly evolving landscape of digital currencies.

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