A witness told the Kenyan Parliamentary Committee investigating Sam Altman’s Worldcoin that he developed eye problems after getting an iris scan and had to see a doctor, according to local media reports.
Kenya’s interior minister Kithure Kindik halted all activities of the cryptocurrency project in early August to allow the government time to investigate potential risks to public safety. At the time, over 350,000 Kenyans had reportedly signed-up to Worldcoin.
Prescription glasses for ‘eye witness’
According to online publication Citizen Digital, Marube Mogusu testified before the Kenyan National Assembly Ad Hoc Committee of Inquiry on Worldcoin on Sept. 5, revealing that he started to experience problems with his eyes after the scan.
” _after the scan, my eyes started becoming watery. I have been on prescribed glasses ever since that time. I don’t know if it is a coincidence or it is the Worldcoin scan…” he said.
Mogusu told the lawmakers that the scan was intended to confirm if a user being registered was a real person. Another witness, Benard Ayoo, a student, revealed that he did the scan for money, but felt cheated after receiving only a fraction of the amount he was promised.
“They [Worldcoin agents] came to school and registered us. They used Iris scan to verify that you are a human being (sic),” Ayoo told the seventeen-member Committee.
“Upon verifying that you are a human being, they would give you 25 Worldcoins which is currently equivalent to $70. They promised Ksh.7,000 but I got only Ksh.2,000 on M-Pesa.”
Worldcoin was launched on July 24, promising people free money in exchange for a scan of their irises. It built a device called Orb, which it uses to scan eyeballs and capture unique biometric identifiers. The goal is to create a digital World ID that separates humans from AI.
The company set up sign-up sites in 120 countries where people can get their irises scanned. So far, Worldcoin has scanned the irises of over 2.28 million users worldwide. But the project has run into problems in several countries, including the UK, France, and Germany.
No consent for sharing private data
Many sold their crypto rewards to scammers for a song, as low as $7, because they did not have enough knowledge about how Worldcoin operates, the report said. Kenyans who got their irises scanned got 25 WLD tokens, valued at around $60 at the time.
Eventually, Kenya’s interior minister Kithure Kindik suspended the operations of Worldcoin, worried the company was collecting biometric data without proper consent and explanation, putting people’s privacy at risk.
Bogita Minyega, another student, confirmed to the Committee that people did not receive any written consent from Worldcoin prior to getting their eyeballs scanned, as reported by Citizen Digital. The student also complained about stigmatization for those who took the scan.
“The guys just told me they were doing the scan, and I should receive a grant. I was skeptical but the moment he mentioned money I went ahead,” Minyega said.
Appearing before the same Committee, Central Bank of Kenya Governor Kamau Thugge said Worldcoin did not get licensed for harvesting private information from Kenyans, and neither was it allowed to offer citizens an alternative form of currency.
Worldcoin investigated for data privacy
Kenyan lawmakers are keen to examine Worldcoin’s activities in relation to the cash it dished out to local citizens and the broader cryptocurrency trading market in the East African country.
As MetaNews previously reported, Worldcoin is already facing scutiny from Kenya’s data protection agency, Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC). Last month, the agency filed a lawsuit with the High Court of Kenya, asking the court to force Worldcoin to safeguard and store the data it collected from Kenyan individuals until investigations are complete.
The suit is part of ongoing investigations by multiple agencies to look into the security, privacy, and legality of collecting biometric data in exchange for money.
In May, the ODPC demanded that Worldcoin stop its iris scans and collecting personal and unique information of people in Kenya. However, the company disregarded the order and continued to harvest the biometric data.
The Worldcoin Foundation, the non-profit building Worldcoin, says it “complies with all laws and regulations governing the processing of personal data in the markets where Worldcoin is available.”
As of writing, Worldcoin’s WLD token is up 6.1% at $1.11, according to CoinGecko. The token lost 67% of its value since its launch. To date, Worldcoin has issued 28.56 million WLD tokens valued at nearly $32 million.