The Kenyan government has unmasked the individuals behind the operations of Worldcoin, a foreign company that was suspended this week amid fears of unauthorized data harvesting from Kenyan citizens.
According to a joint statement issued by the Ministry of the Interior and National Administration and the Ministry of Information, Communication, and the Digital Economy, preliminary investigations have revealed that Worldcoin engaged a local company called Sense Marketing to conduct the data capture on its behalf.
The two local representatives of Worldcoin, Emmanuel Otieno, and Rael Mwende, who were allegedly in charge of operations and country management, respectively, are currently being interrogated by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
Furthermore, the government has identified foreign nationals associated with Worldcoin, including a Mr. Piwowarczyk, who has made several trips to Kenya in recent months.
“The local representatives of Worldcoin are Mr. Emmanuel Otieno who is described to be in charge of operations and; a Ms. Rael Mwende who is described as the Country Manager. Both persons are being interrogated by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) since yesterday (Wednesday August 2023),” the statement read.
“The foreign nationals associated with Worldcoin, are a Mr. Piwowarczyk who is on record to have entered Kenya on several occasions, the last one being in June 2023 (Arrival -11th June, 2023; Departure 25th June, 2023),” the statement added.
CSs Kindiki and Owalo stated that they had given Immigration authorities instructions to prohibit any individuals associated with Worldcoin from departing the country unless they obtain clearance from the Director of Criminal Investigations.
“As a precautionary measure, the Immigration authorities have been directed to ensure that no persons whether Kenyan or foreign nationals associated with this entity leaves Kenya without the clearance of the Director of Criminal Investigations who is in charge of the ongoing investigations,” the statement reads in part.
Worldcoin, a project that promises a universal basic income and financial inclusion to individuals who register their eyes using a spherical device known as an Orb, has been operating in various countries, including Kenya, where it has allegedly registered over 350,000 people.
However, in response to the activities of Worldcoin and the potential concerns surrounding security, privacy, and legality, the Kenyan government took swift action by suspending its operations.
The government has urged the public to be vigilant when engaging with entities like Worldcoin and to be cautious when providing sensitive personal data. There are concerns that the consent sought from individuals may not have been genuine, as monetary incentives were offered in exchange for sensitive personal information.
As investigations are still ongoing, the government has promised to provide further information and clarification as necessary.