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Parliament Kicks Off Probe on Worldcoin Activities in Kenya

Nairobi — Inquiry into the controversial operations of American cryptocurrency firm Worldcoin, has been launched by the Joint National Assembly Ad hoc Committee.

Activities of the company were suspended last month when it started taking iris biometric data from people while paying them Sh7,000.

The office of the Data Protection Agency recently announced that it had been investigating Wolrd Coin operations that started collecting data in May this year.

The 17-member committee is headed by Narok West MP Gabriel Tongoyo and is looking into the legal and regulatory compliance of Worldcoin and its subsidiary partners’ operations.

Additionally, the committee will investigate any health risks that could be brought on by the scan, how the information will be used, and how safe it will be in the collector’s hands.

“Our work is quite cut out for us, and we shall be calling in a number of witnesses, including experts to shed more light on this matter. We have very limited time to ensure that Kenyans get all the answers they deserve,” Tongoyo said.

Tongoyo said potential experts and witnesses are set to appear before the legislators during the investigations.

“Top on the list of witnesses and experts scheduled to appear before the Committee include the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury, to shed light on the relationship between the cryptocurrency trade in Kenya and the recent activities of Worldcoin among others,” he added.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) are also set to make an appearance before the committee, as well as the Ministry of Health who will shed light on potential health hazards resulting from the reported irises scans.

Also, the office of the Attorney General, the Registrar of Companies, and the Data Commissioner will be expected to answer the MPs’ questions on the legal framework of operations of the foreign entity in Kenya, and if due diligence was undertaken in the registration of Worldcoin to operate in Kenya.

“These sessions will also seek to evaluate whether the operations of Worldcoin complied with the Data Protection Act, and other relevant Laws in Kenya,” he added.

The chairperson added the Lawmakers will hold a meeting with the company at the center of the existing controversy Worldcoin, to understand its operations and the ultimate objectives of their data harvesting exercises in Kenya.

The 17- Members committee was drawn from the Departmental Committees on Administration and Internal Security, Communication, Information and Innovation, and Tourism and Wildlife.

National Assembly speaker Moses Wetangula gave the committee 42 days to undertake the task before reporting back to the House.

The committee formation comes when the government on 2nd August suspended the Worldcoin crypto project that relies on an eye scan to verify a user’s identity, citing concerns about data protection.

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 which largely relies on pseudonyms to operate, leaving it vulnerable to spam bots and scams.

Users who registered with the project in Kenya were offered 25 free Worldcoin tokens worth about 7,000 shillings ($45), drawing thousands of people to multiple sign-up points in the capital Nairobi.

Interior minister Kithure Kindiki said authorities were “concerned” by the project and launched investigations 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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