Wetang’ula tasks Ichung’wah to seek answers on data mined by ‘Worldcoin’ » Capital News

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 2 — The National Assembly has instituted a fact-finding quest on the operations of Worldcoin, an American crypto firm, amid concerns over irregular data mining in the country.

House Speaker Moses Wetang’ula directed Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah to report on cautionary measures taken by government even as Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki suspended the firm’s activities and ordered an investigation.

Wetang’ula gave the directive on Wednesday after legislators demanded answers on the authorization process preceding Worldcoin operations in Kenya.

He instructed Ichung’wah to seek responses from Kindiki and his ICT and Digital Economy counterpart Eliud Owalo.

“How on earth would a foreigner walk in in our country and start mining data from our citizens without license and without recourse to any law or authority?” Wetang’ula posed.

“I think as the Majority Leader you have the cardinal duty to seek cogent explanation from both Cabinet Secretaries,” he advised.

Wetang’ula’s directive followed an intervention by Manyatta MP John Mukunji who sought a statement on the authorization process that granted the American firm authority to collect data from Kenyans in a project launched on Monday.

The Manyatta MP questioned whether there was conclusive public participation and awareness done prior to the authorization process to grant Kenyans information on the risks involved.

Security threat

Ichung’wah raised similar concerns while cautioning Kenyans against activities that may threaten their security.

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“Not everything that glitters is gold and as difficult as issues surrounding economy might be please don’t rush for anything that you hear might give an extra coin,” he said.

Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi queried the government position on the Worldcoin project due to conflicting statements on the legality of the project saying it has the potential to endanger national security.

“There is no single day that a government position can be contradictory. A government cannot have two contradictory position on a single issue and a serious issue as this one” Wandayi retorted referring to Owalo’s position on the matter.

Dagorreti North MP Beatrice Elachi called for scrutiny of the all government offices that approved licencing of the firm terming payments made to Kenyans as dubious.

“After receiving the money they cannot withdraw or do anything with it yet already they have it,” Elachi stated.

Thousands of Kenyans flocked to Kenyatta International Conference Center in Nairobi to have their eyes scanned.

Worldcoin offered those who signed up 25 free tokens worth about Sh7,000, drawing thousands of people to multiple sign-up points in the capital Nairobi.

While announcing a suspension on Wednesday, Kindiki said authorities were “concerned” by the project adding an investigation had been launched to ascertain “the safety and protection of the data being harvested, and how the harvesters intend to use the data”.

“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,” Kindiki said.

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Public safety

Kindiki vowed action against anybody found aiding or engaging in the activities.

“Further, it will be critical that assurances of public safety and the integrity of the financial transactions involving such a large number of citizens be satisfactorily provided upfront.”

Worldcoin, owned by American Artificial Intelligence, has been scanning individuals’ iris in exchange for 25 free crypto tokens.

Worldcoin, set up by OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman, began operating in June in Germany and provides users with a private digital identity — a “World ID” — after they get their eye’s unique iris pattern scanned.

The project, according to its founders, aims to solve one of the main challenges facing the crypto industry that largely relies on pseudonyms to operate, leaving it vulnerable to spam bots and scams.

More than 2.1 million people have signed up for Worldcoin across the world, with iris scans conducted in 34 countries, according to the company’s website.

Worldcoin is now trading at $2.37, up from the initial price of $1.70, according to CoinMarketCap.

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