Worldcoin began collecting data in Kenya in 2021, commission reveals

Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait appears before the National Assembly's Communication, Information and Innovation committee at Parliament building on August 15, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Data Protection Commission says Worldcoin began collecting data in Kenya on May 31, 2021.

The Commission, however, realised data was being collected a year later in April 2022 when the agency- Worldcoin started the scanning of irises to register unsuspecting individuals. 

Worldcoin is an international cryptocurrency agency awarding its users with free tokens referred to as WLD once they verify their humanity by scanning their eyeballs.

Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassit made the remarks when she appeared before the Departmental Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation on Tuesday, August 15. 

“In April, 2022, it came to the attention of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner that WorldCoin had been collecting sensitive personal data from Kenyans and transferring the same out of Kenya,” revealed Kassit.

She added; “Thereafter, on April 19, 2022, the commission wrote to the Chief Executive Officer of WorldCoin vide letter referenced ODPC/DPC/11/1/3 requesting for information into the collection of sensitive personal data particularly the legal basis for collection, transfer of the personal data, proof of consent for the transfer amongst other information.”

Kassit also said the commission was yet to tally the total number of Kenyans whose data was collected during the eyeball scanning by WorldCoin.

“The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is yet to establish the number of Kenyans who have signed up with WorldCoin, and pursuant to its powers. The office has commenced multi-agency investigations to ascertain the true position of the processing activities of Worldcoin,” said Kassit.

Additionally, Kassit said there was no agreement between the Office of the Data Protection Commission and Worldcoin on the modalities covering data collections.

Kenyan government has since suspended all activities of Worldcoin including registration, pending investigations. 

The Ministry of Interior on August 2 said it was halting all activities until concerned government agencies ascertain that the app is free of any risks.

Prior to the suspension, the ODPC had warned Kenyans against associating themselves with the app, advising them to first inquire how the data harvested will be used.