A month after his project was suspended for privacy and security concerns, Worlcoin boss Alex Blania appeared before Kenyan legislators to answer questions that the platform is duping young people into surrendering their data.
The Kenyan government suspended Worldcoin activities in early August, just a week after its official launch. An ad hoc 15-member bipartisan committee was formed two weeks later to investigate the project’s activities, with a 42-day window to submit findings.
Appearing before the committee on September 6, Blania defended his project, which he says has abided by all the country’s data and registration requirements.
Worldcoin, he said, is solving a critical challenge on the internet: proof of personhood.
“I am able to verify to the internet that I’m an actual human being and I’m unique, and that’s very important for many applications,” he stated.
Blania, the CEO of Worldcoin’s parent company, Tools for Humanity, also defended the company against accusations of operating without a license. He claimed that under Kenyan laws, the company has no obligation to get registered.
“Worldcoin understands the Business Registration Service Act. We have looked at the description as to what constitutes actual activities – the buying and selling of goods – and concluded we were under no obligation to register. We work with local partners who would have that obligation,” he told the lawmakers.
Blania further shifted the blame to Kenyan authorities, claiming the Worldcoin Foundation applied for registration but has not heard back for months.
The legislators called the company out for duping Kenyans into surrendering critical identifying information without guarantees on the use and security of the data. One lawmaker described the company as “a gang of criminals who are coming to harvest data from young people.”
But, according to Blania, Worldcoin didn’t entice Kenyans with money; instead, “it was giving them an amount of WLD tokens which people could then choose to sell on the open market.”
Kenya bans Worldcoin activities for a year
Worldcoin is one of the digital asset industry’s most polarizing projects. Founded by Blania and ChatGPT founder Sam Altman, it claims to be building the world’s largest human identity and financial network. The project signs up new users by scanning their irises with orbs to verify identity.
Worldcoin’s data security and privacy have come under scrutiny, with regulators in France, the U.K., Germany, and Argentina all launching probes into the project. In Kenya, regulators have now handed the company a one-year ban as they audit its systems.
Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait announced the ban, acting on the recommendation of a multi-agency team formed to probe the project.
“The company will be allowed to operate once it allows for a security audit, allows the government access to the data, registers with the Business Registration Services (BRS) as well as establish a local representative,” Kassait stated.
The ban is a big blow to Worldcoin. While it operates in several countries, Kenya is strategically important to the project, being one of its leading markets. Despite only being allowed to recruit users for a week, the project managed to sign up over 600,000 Kenyans, accounting for over a quarter of the 2.2 million Worldcoin users.
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