State bars persons linked to Worldcoin from leaving the country

Interior CS Kithure Kindiki and ICT and Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo. [File, Standard]

The Government has directed immigration officials to bar persons linked to Worldcoin from exiting Kenya without clearance.

This comes hours after the Ministry of Interior suspended Worldcoin operations in the country, citing security threats.

In a joint communication to parliament, ICT and Digital Economy CS Eliud Owalo and his counterpart in Interior Kithure Kindiki say the move is to help in investigations because it is not yet clear of their prior participation in registration.

"As a precautionary measure, the Immigration authorities have been directed to ensure that no persons whether Kenyan or foreign nationals associated with this entity leaves Kenya without the clearance of the Director of Criminal Investigations who is in charge of the ongoing investigations," the joint statement reads in part.

"The investigations will also cover any persons of interest who may be outside the territory of Kenya in accordance with relevant international procedures and protocols on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) and the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction,"

The government has also established that Worldcoin hired Sense Marketing, a company in Kenya, to operate on its behalf in the country by capturing the data, Parliament has been told.

The two CSs also say the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) had identified the Operation and Country managers as persons of interest, and that the duo is being questioned by detectives as investigations are underway.

CSs Kindiki and Owalo have also told Parliament that the main reason for investigating Worldcoin activities is to establish incentives so that precautionary measures can be taken on the security of the data already obtained.

"Immediate 5 mitigation steps being undertaken are the constitution of a multi-agency team comprising of security, financial services and data protection agencies have commenced inquiries and investigations to establish the legality of the activities of Worldcoin, the safety and the protection of data collected with the aim to safeguard personal data and mitigate against any adverse practices."

Members of the August house have also been told that Worldcoin was registered as a data controller, as is required by the law.

"As one compliance obligation, entities processing data should be registered with the Office. Such registration is done by applying through the ODPC registration portal," the CSs explained to the lawmaker.

The CSs say registration 'does not endorse an entity's compliance with the Data Protection Act or its subsidiary regulations, nor is it a valid license for organizations to operate in Kenya'.

They have also revealed that a registration certificate was issued to Worldcoin on 18th April 2023.

"The Certificate signifies that an entity is known to the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner that it processes personal data of persons located in Kenya,"