WorldCoin: DCI interrogates two as MPS want special committee to probe matter

World Coin

A man is helped scan his iris to create identification codes as part of the requirement while registering as a member of the new Worldcoin cryptocurrency at KICC Nairobi on August 1, 2023. 

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

Two people are being interrogated by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) over collection of data from Kenyans by cryptocurrency project WorldCoin as the government halts processing of data already collected.

This comes as it emerged that the government through the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner had in May 24, told Worldcoin to stop processing of sensitive personal data, namely iris and facial data.

A joint statement by Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his ICT counterpart Eliud Owalo to parliament, indicate that the two people under investigations since Wednesday include Emmanuel Otieno who is described to be in charge of operations and Ms Rael Mwende who is described as the Country Manager.

The two are listed as the local representatives of Worldcoin.

According to the government, among the foreign nationals associated with Worldcoin, are a Mr Poitr Piwowarczyk who is on record to have entered Kenya on several occasions, he last one being in June 2023 where he landed in the country on June 11, 2023 and left on June 25, 2023

“Criminal investigations have commenced 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,” the two Cabinet Secretaries said.

Due to the ongoing investigations, any person whether Kenyan or foreign nationals associated with the Worldcoin leaves the country without the clearance of the Director of Criminal Investigations who is in charge of the ongoing investigations.

According to Prof Kindiki and Mr Owalo Worldcoin hired a company in Kenya called Sense Marketing to do the data capture for them in the country and had set up booths across the country to scan the iris of interested Kenyans in April in anticipation of the launch of their cryptocurrency last week.

The two CSs told MPs that the office of the Data Protection Commissioner had in May suspended operations of WorldCoin in May last year for a period of 60 days to ascertain the lawful basis and safeguards

Further, the data commissioner has also raised concerns with the processing activities of the entity and wrote to Worldcoin in May 30, 2023 and directed immediate cessation of processing of sensitive personal data, namely iris and facial data, of data subjects.

Members of Parliament yesterday called for the establishment of a special committee to probe the matter saying it cannot be left to the two Cabinet Secretaries that have already differed in public about the matter.

Minority Whip Junet Mohamed said if WorldCoin was registered in April as stated by the government, it is important to know what they were doing since then because their activities only came to the limelight last week.

“These were people who were sure of what they were doing, they were doing it in public at KICC-a government facility. We need a special committee to handle this matter and bring a detailed report to this House,” Mr Mohamed said.

“Our people are being misused because of poverty, it’s our duty to protect them from people who have ulterior motives,” he added.

Uasin Gishu Woman Rep Gladys Shollei expressed fear that Worldcoins might have collected more sensitive information from Kenyans since they had over 20 centres.

“They could have mined more data than we think. A look at their website indicates that they have 20 centres across the country and some of their partners include Nairobi county and Strathmore University," Ms Shollei said.

“This is a serious issue and the Communication Authority and Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) needs to get involved because we have an organisation that has more data and census of our population than even the government and one day we will be forced to buy the same data from them,” she added.

Gilgil MP Martha Wangari called on the two Cabinet Secretaries to provide information on the number of eyeballs that have so far been scanned by Worldcoin, where is the data and provide surety that the data has not already been processed.

Both Prof Kindiki and Mr Owalo have been summoned to appear before the whole House on Wednesday next week to provide more details about the activities of Worldcoin in the country.