WLD, the cryptocurrency token of the iris biometric project Worldcoin, has experienced a 70% decline from its debut price. The sharp drop has been linked to the company's ongoing regulatory challenges and concerns over its data collection and storage methods.
Ignored Warning from Kenyan Government
Documents have surfaced indicating that Worldcoin's parent company, Tools for Humanity, disregarded an order from the Kenyan government to halt iris scanning operations. This order was issued prior to a Kenyan government's official suspension of the company's activities. The Kenyan Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) had directed Tools for Humanity to cease collecting personal data, including iris scans and facial recognition data, as early as May. This was months before Worldcoin's official launch in the country.
Authorities dispersed thousands of Kenyans who had lined up at the Kenyatta International Convention Center (KICC) yesterday to register for the Worldcoin cryptocurrency projecthttps://t.co/X14TdnFxyT
— The Standard Digital (@StandardKenya) August 2, 2023
Concerns Over Data Collection and Consent
The ODPC's directive highlighted concerns about Worldcoin's data collection practices. The company was accused of infringing on individuals' privacy by collecting biometric data without a clear and compelling reason. Moreover, the ODPC stated that Worldcoin did not obtain valid consent from individuals before scanning their irises. The company allegedly failed to inform participants about the security and privacy measures in place and how the collected data would be used.
Court Involvement and Further Actions
Following the ODPC's initial directive, the matter escalated to the Kenyan High Court. The court has since barred Worldcoin from collecting data from Kenyan citizens. The company has also been instructed to preserve all data collected between April 19 and August 8. The Kenyan cabinet secretary for interior and national administration, Kithure Kindiki, announced the suspension of Worldcoin's activities on August 2. This suspension will remain until authorities can confirm that there are no risks to the public.
Worldcoin's Ambitions and Controversies
Worldcoin aims to create a new “human identity and financial network” using iris scanning technology, known as “Orb,” and its cryptocurrency, WLD. Kenya was among the first countries where Worldcoin initiated sign-ups and quickly became a significant market for the company. However, concerns have been raised about the company's methods, especially regarding the exploitation of economically disadvantaged individuals with the lure of free cryptocurrency. In addition to the issues in Kenya, Worldcoin has faced criticism and skepticism from the broader tech industry. An investigation by MIT Technology Review last year revealed questionable marketing practices and concerns over data collection and consent.