Kenyan Authorities Raid Worldcoin Warehouse In Nairobi
Lawmakers Fear Controversial Identity Project Could Be Violating Local Privacy Laws
By: Samuel Haig •Crypto News
Kenyan police raided a warehouse operated by Worldcoin in the country’s capital on Aug. 5, according to local media.
Nairobi-based media outlet, Kahawu Tunu, said officials representing multiple Kenyan law enforcement agencies armed with search warrants broke into the building over the weekend. They left in possession of “machines” believed to store Kenyans’ sensitive information, before turning the devices in to the country’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations for analysis.
The raid follows Kenya’s interior cabinet suspending Worldcoin’s local registration on Aug. 2 pending an investigation into its operations, with regulators fearing that the project is not abiding by local privacy laws.
Worldcoin is a controversial project founded by Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. It offers an airdrop of WLD tokens and creates a World ID for users who agree to have their irises scanned by a proprietary device, called an “Orb,” to prove they are unique human beings.
Worldcoin says its World ID will allow users to validate their identities with third-party companies and services without divulging personal information. It also suggests its proof-of-humanhood could help lay the groundwork for some form of Universal Basic Income in the future.
While the project has elicited suspicion from privacy advocates and governments, Worldcoin said the iris scan confirms an individual’s unique personhood for World ID issuance but insists that no personal data is stored following the scan.
“The Orb… validate[s] a person’s humanness locally on the device, without needing to send, upload or save images,” Worldcoin’s website reads. However, a “mathematical representation of the iris texture” is also generated locally on scanning devices.
Suspended In Kenya
Worldcoin launched its World App platform last month, allowing World ID holders to receive and sell their WLD tokens for the first time, igniting a surge of interest from users.
The project caught the attention of regulators after thousands of locals queued at pop-up registration centers for days on end to participate in the project. More than 350,000 Kenyans had signed up to participate, hoping to receive WLD rewards valued at $50 prior to Worldcoin’s suspension.
The World App was the most downloaded mobile application last week, according to AppFigures.
Kenyan privacy regulations prohibit citizens’ personal information from being collected or revealed unless deemed necessary. Local authorities say Worldcoin’s activities do not meet the criteria to necessitate exposing Kenyans’ personal data.
“We must protect Kenyans from unregulated mining of their data while their use remains mysterious or unknown,” said Kenyan senator Kiprotich Arap Cherargei.
However, Worldcoin has since said it is working with the government to implement “crowd-control measures” and intends to resume operating in Kenya soon. Worldcoin said it selected Kenya as its first African base of operations due to its sizable tech sector and high rates of web3 adoption.
The WLD token rallied to a high of $2.50 last week but has since retraced over 20%, according to CoinGecko.
World App Outage
On Aug. 5, Worldcoin estimated the volume of World ID verifications had doubled to nearly 258,000 over the previous seven days, signifying accelerating adoption in spite of regulatory interventions worldwide. The team noted the number of World IDs doubled from 1M to 2M between January and July, further signifying growing interest in the project.
But Worldcoin’s infrastructure would buckle under the growing traffic just one day later, with users briefly losing access to their wallets after the Worldcoin App went offline on Aug. 6.