A university student says he suffered vision problems after cryptocurrency company Worldcoin paid him less than a third of the promised compensation for scanning his irises.
Miruoba Marube, a student at Kenyatta University, told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that Worldcoin recruiters assured him he would receive KES 7,000 for the biometric data harvesting. But he only received the equivalent of KES 2,000 in cryptocurrency.
“They also lied to me that they would pay me KES 7,000 but only sent me an equivalent of KES 2,000, after which, I developed eye complications and I have had to get prescription spectacles,” said Miruoba Marube, who testified before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.
Marube was one of the three university students who appeared before the joint ad hoc committee of inquiry into Worldcoin, a company that has been accused of harvesting biometric data from unsuspecting Kenyans in exchange for cryptocurrency that they could not access or use.
The students said they were lured by the promise of a 70 US dollar grant, but received much less or nothing at all. They also said they did not know what the company was doing with their data, which they now fear could be used for malicious purposes.
“They never told us where they were taking our data to, they only said the scanning was meant to confirm that we are human, and to show you are the sole owner of the application Worldcoin so others could not access it,” said Bruce Bogita, a student at the Kenya School of Law.
Bogita said he encountered the Worldcoin staff in his university grounds in 2021, along with Bernard Ochieng’, a student at the Technical University of Kenya, who said he was approached by a recruiting agent in his campus.
The students said they were not given any guidance on how to convert the cryptocurrency to Kenyan shillings, and that the amount they received was not consistent with what they had been promised.
The students also revealed that most of their colleagues registered with Worldcoin as early as 2021, and that a large number of those whose information was harvested by the company were university students.
“Most of us agreed to have our eyes scanned because of the financial motivation, and the fact that they were stationed within our learning institutions and we did not have to do much to get the promised grant, although it was in cryptocurrency,” Ochieng’ said.
The students said they have since faced social stigma based on social media reactions to the reported scans, and that they would not want the data harvesting by Worldcoin to continue. They urged the government to intervene and protect their privacy and security.
The joint committee, chaired by Hon. Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West), is investigating the operations of Worldcoin in Kenya, which several state agencies have referred to as illegal.
The committee is scheduled to meet with the directors of Worldcoin on Wednesday.