The government has suspended operations of Worldcoin days after it emerged that Kenyans were lining up in the streets to scan their eyeballs for Ksh.7,000.
In a statement, Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki said relevant government agencies have launched investigations into the activities of Worldcoin, including harvesting of personal data.
“The Government is concerned by the ongoing activities of an organization calling itself ‘worldcoin’ which is involved in the registration of citizens through collection of eyeball/iris data.
Relevant security, financial services and data protection agencies have commenced inquiries and investigations to establish the authenticity and legality of the aforesaid activities, the safety and protection of the data being harvested, and how the harvesters intend to use the data.
Accordingly, the Government has suspended forthwith, activities of ‘worldcoin’ and any other entity that may be similarly engaging the people of Kenya until relevant public agencies certify the absence of any risks to the general public whatsoever.
According to Kindiki, the government will take appropriate action on any natural or juristic person who furthers, aids, abets or otherwise engages in or is connected with the activities afore described.
Also Read: Kenyans Cautioned Over WorldCoin Risks
Earlier, ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo had confirmed that the government cleared the company to operate in Kenya, but they were looking into its activities.
Further, the CS noted that the company was working lawfully under the Data Commissioners Act and that the firm was collecting the data voluntarily.
Owalo, while appearing on NTV on Wednesday, August 2, assured the public that they would issue a comprehensive statement on Worldcoin operations in Kenya.
“What this entity is saying is that they are getting this data voluntarily from Kenyans. There are provisions in the Data Commission Act which safeguard how an entity can get personal data from somebody. Their argument is that they are voluntarily getting the data,’ Owalo explained.
“This is something that started way back in April. We have a fully-fledged Data Commissioner’s office charged with the regulation of data security and privacy.
In April, the office of the Data Commissioner got wind of Worldcoin and wrote them a letter to clarify what they wanted to do.
There could be security and regulatory issues around it which we need to improve, but as far as the Data Act is concerned, they were acting within the law,” the CS explained.
Reactions on Worldcoin suspension
Consumers Federation of Kenya (COFEK) Secretary General Stephen Mutoro welcomed the move by CS Kindiki to crack the whip.
According to the COFEK boss, the company should surrender to Kenyan authorities all the data it has harvested from the public.
“I call upon the CS to require that World Coin surrenders all information collected on Kenyan eyeballs for review by forensic experts. Details on local ownership (security) on responsibility for any liability need to be registered with adequate value,” he stated.
In addition, COFEK wants the Data Commissioner to recall the registration of Worldcoin after CS Owalo stated that the entity was operating in Kenya legally.
“We call upon the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner to recall its registration pending confirmation. In any case ODPC registration should have been superseded by security checks and analyses by security and quality assurance agencies,” Mutoro demanded.