We did not coerce anyone into scanning their eyeballs, Worldcoin CEO says

From left to right: Sam Sadle, Head of Policy, Tools for Humanity Alex Blania, CEO of Tools for Humanity and Thomas Scott, Chief Legal Officer. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Worldcoin, the cryptocurrency project by US generative Artificial Intelligence company OpenAI, insists that it is not a data collection company as perceived.

Worldcoin Chief Executive Officer Alex Blania and Founder of Truth for Humanity,a Worldcoin subsidiary, told the National Assembly Ad Hoc Committee that his firm is not in any way involved in mining data, or later selling said data, but actively involved in authenticating if one is human and uniquely categorising them.

The CEO who came under a barrage of questions from the committee members was also at pains to explain Worldcoin’s real motive in Kenya, considering that they are not licensed to operate by the office of the Data Commissioner.

"Yes, it is true that we are not registered in Kenya because the website of the data protection is not clear on data controlling companies and yes we can confirm that we are not seeking to harvest data from Kenyans. We are building something to protect privacy," the committee heard.

Blania added that they have been in touch with the Data Commission office since April last year where they were duly registered as a data controller company.

At the same time, the company has defended itself against claims that it coerced Kenyans to have their iris scanned by paying them Sh7,500, terming the amount as an incentive or token normally given by any other company like Paypal.

"For example, Safaricom gives their clients Sh50 worth of airtime when they buy their lines. Does this mean that they are being coerced? No. And actually it was 25 free cryptocurrency tokens per person whose iris were scanned and not 70 as reported," he stated.

According to Worldcoin, their mobile application is self-explanatory and it has steps that guide the user including where they give consent on usage. The company defended its choice for Kenya citing the country's top level of technology adoption compared to other East African countries.

Defending their undertakings when he appeared before the Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee for grilling on the crypto project's operations in Kenya, the CEO also revealed that they have been in partnership with various institutions and organisations in Kenya including Strathmore University and that it has been conducting iris scans in Kenya since 2021.

"The Worldcoin project rolled out globally on June 24 and so far we are in 17 countries including; Uganda, Germany, Spain Portugal, Brazil, India, Chile and the US. Our application is available currently in 168 countries," he added.