In the wake of the WorldCoin incident, Kenya’s ICT regulatory body is contemplating revising its existing laws. The Communications Authority (CA) is now advocating for creating regulatory sandboxes to monitor and regulate emerging technologies, especially digital currencies.
The recent scrutiny surrounding WorldCoin’s initiative to gather biometric data from Kenyan citizens has spurred the push for these changes. WorldCoin, owned by Tools for Humanity, incentivized individuals with a token equivalent to KES 7,000 ($50) in exchange for their biometric data.
Ezra Chiloba, the director-general of CA, emphasized, “There’s an urgent requirement for a comprehensive legal structure that addresses the challenges posed by new technologies, including digital platforms, social media, and Over-the-Top services.This urgency was underscored when it was revealed that WorldCoin had secured a license as a data processor in Kenya, permitting Tools for Humanity to register Kenyans using iris recognition devices.
However, when it became evident that WorldCoin’s activities might not align with data protection regulations, various Kenyan agencies, including the ICT ministry, contended that the license did not authorize WorldCoin to gather personal data. Eliud Owalo, the ICT cabinet secretary, clarified, “The license doesn’t validate an entity’s adherence to the Data Protection Act or its related rules. It also doesn’t serve as a legitimate license for operations within Kenya.
The Kenyan parliament expressed its dissatisfaction with data commissioner Immaculate Kassait, blaming her for the oversight in the WorldCoin situation. The method of collecting iris data by WorldCoin sparked debates about data privacy and the government’s role in managing digital identities. In her defence, Kassait stated that her office had issued a directive to cease WorldCoin’s operations. She admitted her unawareness of WorldCoin’s potential breach of privacy laws, noting that she only became informed after public concerns were raised.
Currently, WorldCoin has suspended its Kenyan operations. The fate of the already accumulated biometric data remains uncertain, though Owalo had previously mentioned that he would provide clarifications to the parliament.