Kenya’s ICT Regulator Calls for Legal Updates Amidst WorldCoin Controversy
The inadequacies of existing laws became apparent when it was revealed that WorldCoin had been registered merely as a data processor in Kenya.
By Anna B Kiwanuka
In the wake of a contentious situation involving WorldCoin’s operations in Kenya, the country’s Communications Authority (CA) has proposed significant legal reforms. The CA is advocating for the establishment of regulatory sandboxes to effectively oversee emerging technologies, including digital currencies, and address the gaps in current regulations.
The controversy stemmed from WorldCoin, under the ownership of Tools for Humanity, collecting sensitive biometric information from Kenyan citizens in exchange for a token valued at KES 7,000 ($50). However, the legality of such data collection was brought into question due to the absence of clear regulatory provisions.
Ezra Chiloba, the Director-General of the CA, emphasized the need for a comprehensive legal framework to govern new and emerging technologies, encompassing digital platforms, social media, and Over-the-Top services. The inadequacies of existing laws became apparent when it was revealed that WorldCoin had been registered merely as a data processor in Kenya. This registration allowed Tools for Humanity to onboard Kenyans onto its platform using iris scanning machines.
In response to these activities, Kenya’s ICT ministry and other relevant agencies argued that WorldCoin’s license did not grant them the authority to collect personal data. Eliud Owalo, Kenya’s ICT Cabinet Secretary, contended that the license did not endorse compliance with the Data Protection Act or its subsidiary regulations and did not constitute a valid permit for operating in Kenya.
The Kenyan parliament also criticized Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait for her handling of the WorldCoin controversy, accusing her of failing the Kenyan people. The biometric data collection by WorldCoin raised concerns about data privacy and government involvement in digital identities. Kassait defended her office by stating that they had issued an order to halt WorldCoin’s operations. However, she claimed that she was unaware of WorldCoin’s privacy law violations until public outrage brought them to her attention.
As a result of the controversy, WorldCoin has suspended its activities in Kenya. The fate of the biometric data that has already been collected remains uncertain, although Owalo pledged to provide an explanation to the parliament in the coming weeks.