Why Did United States Stop Kenya from Arresting WorldCoin Founder?

September 18, 2023

The United States reportedly stopped Kenya from detaining American Citizens from collecting Iris data of Kenyan citizens for the famous Worldcoin project founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. The US citizens detained in Kenya included WorldCoin founder  Tool for Humanity (TFH) CEO Alex Blania and TFH legal spokesperson Mr Thomas Scott.

Interior Cabinet Secretary of Kenya Kithure Kindiki revealed that the US citizens were detained at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while they were leaving the country. Kindki told Adhoc Committee of the National Assembly investigating the WorldCoin project in Kenya,

They tried to leave the country but were stopped and put in custody. However, the US government intervened saying they should be allowed to leave the country because they haven’t yet been found guilty of committing a crime and gave them an undertaking that it will produce them when required, reported Nation.

The authorities reportedly seized some gadgets including Orbs which were collecting Iris data of Kenyan Citizens. The Country’s Communication Authority is reportedly now doing forensic analysis of these devices. Kenya also recovered some related documents and recorded statements of 26 witnesses and persons of interest.

Why WorldCoin Founder and Tool of Humanity Legal Spokesperson Were Detained in Kenya?

It seems that the arrest of the WorldCoin founder is not only linked to users’ privacy concerns but also money laundering threats and possible health hazards on people scanning their irisis.

WorldCoin, the project engaged in collecting data on irises in exchange for cryptocurrency WorldCoin seems to be using Kenya as its experimental base.  While Worldcoin reportedly started its operations in the country in 2020 from educational programs, its intent of scanning irises was not revealed until July 2022.

While there are some serious privacy concerns for Kenyan citizens who have shared their irisis data for Worldcoin’s WorldID project, the government has some reservations about implications related to money laundering as well.

According to reports 350,000 people had already registered for the project. Each person receiving  Sh7000 meant that Sh2.5 bn had been added to the economy which could have been misused for money laundering as they were in the form of cryptocurrency.

About WorldCoin Popularity in Kenya

After the WorldCoin project was launched on 24 July 2023, it gained immense popularity in the country. The footage of thousands of Kenyans lining up to get registered by scanning their eyeballs went viral on social media. At the time of launch, Kenya Office of Data Protection Commissioner even urged citizens rushing to scan their irises to stay vigilant.

The OPDC office in a statement reportedly said, “The ODPC is aware that WorldCoin has now been launched and is processing sensitive personal data in a manner that requires a demonstration of proper safeguards under the Data Protection Act, 2019,”.

However, the WorldCoin offers people to pay 25 WLD an amount almost equal to USD 50 or Sh7000, making it lucrative for many citizens to register for scanning irisis.

OPDC which earlier urged citizens to stay vigilant, later filed a petition against Worldcoin. Kenya’s high court later barred Worldcoin from scanning irisis.

As of July 2023, more than 2 million people across 34 countries had already registered for WorldCoin.

What is WorldCoin?

Since, its inception the project has faced heavy criticism for its potential to jeopardize the sensitive data of the citizens. WorldCoin founder Sam Altman who is the CEO of OpenAI, reportedly wants to scan eye-balls of the entire humanity in exchange for cryptocurrency, in order to distinguish humans from robots and make it easy for state governments to achieve the goal of Universal Basic Income.
Worldcoin is scanning the irises of people through Tools of Humanity which is also registered in Germany. Worldcoin founder Alex Blania who was detained in Germany is CEO of TFH.

Also Read: FATF October Plenary to Discuss Crowdfunding