22nd February 2024 4:00 pm
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OpenAI founder in hot water with Kenyan authorities

  • OpenAI and ChatGPT founder Sam Altman has had the operations of his Worldcoin crypto firm suspended in Kenya.
  • Kenyan authorities have confiscated “orbs” belonging to Worldcoin, machines that are used to verify and store user information.
  • Kenyan authorities have said that Worldcoin is not licensed to operate in the East African nation.

Days after launching his cryptocurrency, Worldcoin, OpenAI founder Sam Altman has run afoul of authorities in Kenya, one of Africa’s technology hubs.

The latest has seen Kenyan law enforcement officials seize machines that allegedly contained data collected by Worldcoin from a warehouse in Nairobi. The machines were taken to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters for further analysis, as per Capital News.

Kenyan officials with a Worldcoin “orb.”

The machines the police took look like the orbs that Worldcoin is using to store identity information for its users – what it calls “WorldID.” The crypto firm launched more orbs – or “biometric imaging devices” in countries like the United Arab Emirates, and Kenya in July. There are around 1 500 orbs worldwide which have verified the identity information of “more than 40 000 individuals per week.”

Kenya suspended the local operations of Worldcoin and has been investigating the company. According to TechCabal, Worldcoin had been collecting information from Kenyans, scanning their eyes in exchange for 25 World tokens. However once the Interior Cabinet Secretary of Kenya, Kithure Kindiki, got wind of this and how this information could possibly fall into the wrong hands, a crackdown was immediately implemented.

Altman launched Worldcoin in July to global attention from the media after Altman made a name for himself for being one of the brains behind the worldwide phenomenon that is ChatGPT. Worldcoin itself says that hundreds of thousands have signed up for its tokens via the metal orbs

One of the key aspects of Worldcoin is that it is supposed to verify whether or not a person is actually a person, or a robot or AI. Despite this, as Kindiki told Kenyan parliament last week “The aforesaid entity is not registered as a legal entity in Kenya.”

This is not the first time an American tech firm has roused the ire of Kenyans. Earlier this year, Facebook owner Meta found itself in a legal battle in the Employment and Labour Court of Kenya over allegations of mistreatment of former employees.

[Image – @PhillipOgola on Twitter]

Luis Monzon

Luis Monzon

Journalist. Covering education, AAA gaming and consumer tech. Reach me at Luis@htxt.co.za.

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