Kenya: Data Commissioner Kassait on the Spot for Endorsing Worldcoin Activities

30 August 2023

Nairobi — The Office and Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) has been put on the spotlight for issuing Tools for Humanity, a firm under which Worldcoin operated, a certificate of registration outside the legal framework.

The State Law Office made the revelations on Wednesday when Attorney General Justin Muturi appeared before an Adhoc committee of the National Assembly investigating Worldcoin activities in Kenya.

The Department of Justice told lawmakers Worldcoin, operating as Tools for Humanity, was not licensed to operate in the country as required under the Companies Act.

"Worldcoin is not registered as a company for whatever purpose in Kenya. An application for registration must be accompanied interalia by a company of establishment documents. The establishment documents include a registration certificate," Muturi said.

The move to by Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait to issue Tools of Humanity Cooperation a certificate was cited as a glaring omission on the part of ODPC.

"It is to be observed Mr Chairman that for a foreign country to operate and collect data in the country, the company is required to furnish its establishment document to the data commissioner," said Muturi.

The Department of Justice further noted that of eleven local companies that were working as agents of the Worldcoin Project, only one was registered.

Sense Marketing, one of the local agents, was registered s a firm operating along Langata-Kitengela Road with one shareholder identified as Kevin Ondumbe.

Protocol breach

MPs questioned why ODPC moved to issue the certification of registration to the American Firm despite them failing to adhere to companies act regulations.

"Essentially a Data Commissioner can't register unless the documents given to her are document confirming its registration," Homabay Town MP Peter Kaluma onserved.

"Will I be right to say that Tools for Humanities was not correctly registered in the country and so can we conclude that all activities by the firm in Kenya are completely illegal and therefore very strong legal action should be taken against its associates?" Mbeere North MP Geoffrey Ruku posed.

"Who is responsible in this case on checking the compliance? Where does the mandate of Registrar of Companies start and where does the mandate of the Data Commissioner start?" Nominated MP Umulkheir Harun queried.

Principal State Counsel Karen Ndegwa noted that a certificate of business registration was a prerequisite for any firm seeking clearance by the Data Commissioner.

"As a foreign company before you embark for certificate processing from the Data Commissioner you must have sought the certificate of business registration system seeking to be compliant with the Kenyan law," Ndegwa said.

The new revelations emerged a day after the National Computer and Cybercrime Coordination Committee warned that the online recruitment for Worldcoin project might be ongoing despite a suspension order by government.

Unclear motive

Appearing before the National Assembly Adhoc Committee, the agency's Head of Cyber-security Standards and Policy David Njoka called for speedy investigations to establish the real motive of Worldcoin proponents given the sensitivity of the data they mined from Kenyans.

"This raises national security concerns given that Kenyans are exposed to external threats from a foreign entity hence the need to protect Kenya's national interest and protection of citizens," said Njoka.

He made the statement even as he cast doubt on the safety of data captured by the Worldcoin Project after it emerged that it was stored in Amazon Web Services in the United States.

Njoka recommended that the Ministry of Interior and National Administration to demands the preservation of the data already collected to enable technical assessment of the infrastructure used in the collection, transmission and processing of data.

"In the event that Worldcoin is in breach of terms and conditions of their registration they should be investigated, prosecuted and issued with administrative fines and other legal sanctions," he said.

Kenyans registered the highest subscriptions to the Worldcoin cryptocurrency project out of thirty-four countries where similar operations were mounted.

The American firm recruited agents deployed across thirty stations in Nairobi to scan and collect iris data for transmission.

Njoka explained that Worldcoin disguised itself as a research institution before escalating its activities of data processing exposing gullible Kenyans.

"A week after the launch of Worldcoin cryptocurrency on 22nd of July, they announced that they have registered over 350,000 Kenyans and in terms of the numbers of data registered globally," Njoka said noting that entries by Kenyans amounted to 25 per cent of the overall data collected.

8 billion target

Worldcoin had targeted to register 8 billion people in the cryptocurrency platform that aims to provide universal global economy by authenticating individual using retina/iris scans.

In Kenya, the firm operated through local representatives identified as Wangechi Maina and Rael Mwende after legal agreements with their local firms listed as Platinum De Plus Limited, EXP Kenya and Sense Marketing.

Worldcoin offered those who signed up 25 free tokens worth about Sh7,000, drawing thousands of people to multiple sign-up points in the capital Nairobi.

Thousands of Kenyans flocked to Kenyatta International Conference Center Nairobi mid July to have their eyes scanned.

The project, according to its founders, aims to solve one of the main challenges facing the crypto industry that largely relies on pseudonyms to operate, leaving it vulnerable to spam bots and scams.

More than 2.1 million people have signed up for Worldcoin across the world, with iris scans conducted in 34 countries, according to the company's website.

Worldcoin is now trading at $2.37, up from the initial price of $1.70, according to CoinMarketCap.

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