The Parliament of Kenya intends to investigate Worldcoin’s large-scale processing and handling of users’ sensitive biometric data, collected through retinal scans in exchange for a World ID and reportedly a token worth Ksh7,000.
On Tuesday, August 15, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Moses Wetang’ula, launched a probe into Worldcoin (WLD) after the Members of Parliament raised concerns about data protection and privacy risks that come with the new crypto technology and what the government was doing to protect the citizens whose data were harvested by the chrome Orb.
The majority of the MPs pointed fingers at the Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS) Prof Kithure Kindiki, his counterpart Eliud Owalo at the Information, Communications and the Digital Economy docket and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC), despite the data watchdog’s successful last-minute rush to court for orders to bar Worldcoin from accessing the collected information amid security evaluation.
Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait appeared before the Departmental Committee on Communication, Information, and Innovation of the National Assembly, and its Chair, Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie, wanted to know why her office had not rushed to the courts with the same speed after she confessed to knowing Worldcoin’s dubious operations from April 2022, subsequently writing a letter to them seeking clarity over its collection, storage, and use of customer data on the 19th of the same month and receiving a response from Worldcoin on May 6, 2022.
“It took the intervention of the committee to access the trail of correspondences, and the committee will go through this. Of concern to us, is are Kenyans safe, is their data safe or is it being exploited to be used in a technology that no one seems to be taking responsibility over?” Posed Kiarie.
Despite Worldcoin getting a license from the ODPC, Kassait maintained that even though the web3 startup was issued with a certificate of registration, it does not mean it is compliant with the entire Data Protection Act but only its Sections 18 and 19. [The Data Protection Act PDF)
“Under the circumstances, it was induced compliance with the data protection regulations since Kenyans had to accept the terms for their data to be taken in exchange for Worldcoin tokens,” she said.
After her presentation, the Chair of the Committee adjourned the session for next Friday, citing unsatisfactory submissions from Kassait. Kiarie now wants the Data Commissioner to make her next week’s submissions in writing and should state how Worldcoin bypassed authorities to start its operations in Kenya.
Now, to advance the investigation on the matter, Speaker Wetang’ula has directed the Committee led by Kiarie to form a special team of fifteen members drawn from the Administration and Internal Security Committee and that of Wildlife and Tourism.
Each of the three Committees’ Chair will nominate three members from the Majority and three from the Minority while factoring in themselves to come up with a balanced team that will take on the Worldcoin case and submit its analysis late next month.
“The mandate of the Joint Committee is to inquire into the activities and operations of Worldcoin in Kenya and that the relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, whose mandates have a bearing on the matter. Speaker Wetang’ula directed that the Joint Committee should consider and inquire into the matter and submit its report by Thursday, 28th September 2023.” A statement from the Parliament of Kenya reads.
The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner said it is yet to establish the number of people whose data is with Worldcoin.