The High Court has barred cryptocurrency firm Worldcoin from collecting data from Kenyans, pending the determination of a petition filed by the office of the Data Protection Commissioner.
Justice Prof Nixon Sifuna further directed Worldcoin to preserve the data it collected from Kenyans between April 19 and August 8, pending the conclusion of an investigation by the State agency.
The office of the Data Commissioner had moved to court seeking the preservation of data collected by Worldcoin stating that it is apprehensive that the firm’s agents are storing personal data in their database but it is vulnerable to loss, modification, deletion, transfer or further processing, in a manner that offends the Act.
“That an order be and is hereby issued directing the respondents and its agents, representatives and employees, to preserve all data and sensitive personal data collected from Kenyans and Kenyan residents pertaining the operations of the project from April 19 to August 8, 2023,” the judge said.
Worldcoin has in recent weeks intensified its activities in Kenya by scaling up its collection of biometric data by taking photographs of a person's iris.
In exchange, Kenyans have been promised a Sh7,000 reward after having their iris scanned.
Worldcoin has argued that the data it is collecting will be used to create a unique, secure form of identification.
But privacy experts have raised concerns that the company may use the information in other ways, such as personalised marketing.
Justice Sifuna also directed the Data Commissioner to place the order in a newspaper for Kenyans to be aware of the directive.
The State agency has sued the firm, which is registered as Tools for Humanity Corporation, alongside Tools for Humanity GmbH and Sense Marketing Limited.
Mr Oscar Otieno, the deputy data commissioner in charge of complaints, investigations and enforcement says in an affidavit that a review of the Worldcoin project revealed that the processing of personal data does not adhere to the principles of data protection as set out in section 25 of the Act.
Mr Otieno said in an affidavit filed in court. Worldcoin says on its website that the project is aimed at establishing universal access to the global economy regardless of country or background.
That it is designed to become the world’s largest human identity and financial network, giving ownership to everyone, the cryptocurrency said.
“That in order to conduct a proper and comprehensive investigations of the respondents’ Worldcoin project, the applicant seeks to ascertain the availability, status and or security of the Kenyan data subjects’ personal data and sensitive personal data that forms the substratum of the investigations,” Mr Otieno added.
Mr Otieno said despite being ordered to cease data collection, Worldcoin Project continued to process data until CS Interior Prof Kithure Kindiki intervened.
Prof Kindiki said the suspension will remain in effect until assurances of the safety and integrity of financial deals are provided.
“The government has suspended forthwith activities of Worldcoin and any other entity that may be similarly engaging the people of Kenya until relevant public agencies certify the absence of any risks to the general public whatsoever,” the statement by the CS said.