MPs accuse state agencies of laxity in Worldcoin data collection saga

TMembers of public queue outside KICC to recieve some Sh7,000 during Worldcoin launch day. [Jimmy Mbogoh, Standard]

Members of Parliament have accused various state agencies of laxity in the wake of the cryptocurrency project, Worldcoin.

The legislators, while lauding the State’s move to ban Worldcoin operations amid data privacy concerns, noted that the agencies should have done due diligence to avert unchecked data mining by the controversial company.

During a plenary sitting yesterday, the legislators drawn from across the political divide called for a comprehensive audit into the operations of Worldcoin and demanded that those responsible for registration of the company and allowing their equipment into the country be brought to book.

“This is a matter of national security… where was our National Intelligence Service given that this company has been operating for the last four months. Even as we investigate this matter we expect to be told whether the government has recaptured this data and clear guidelines on the matter,” said the lawmakers.

“It’s interesting that the founder of Worldcoin is from the USA where the project has been banned. The owners are now taking advantage of unemployed youth to lure them into illegal data mining,” said Gilgil MP Martha Wangari.

Ugenya MP David Ochieng alleged that the data protection agency was complicit in the matter given that the company had been licensed to operate in the country.

He also questioned the effectiveness of the country’s intelligence apparatus.

“We demand from the people concerned to know how many Kenyans have so far been scanned. Where are our security agents? Where is the National Intelligence Service? Where is the CID? As parliamentarians we are not investigators because we have agencies to do that,” said Ochieng.

“I want to know from the Cabinet Secretaries of Interior and ICT what remedial measures have been taken since this was discovered and assure Kenyans that they will no longer be used in the wrong manner,” he added.

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Shollei wondered how the company’s equipment used to scan Kenyans iris’ made it through the airport without the knowledge of customs.

“This matter is bigger than we think it is. If an international organization has information about your citizens, one day you might have to buy it from them. This matter also touches on the Central Bank of Kenya which has never pronounced itself on matters of cryptocurrency. It needs to get involved. The Communications Authority and customs officials should look into this matter,” she said.

Manyatta MP Gitonga Mukunji called on the government to do more to protect citizens.

“I see this as a company that has seen an easy way of coming into the country and obtaining data. It is upon the government to ensure our young people are not misused for a few coins. The next frontier for many wealthy people is the sale of data and we need to put in place stringent measures to safeguard our data,” added Mukunji.

And while reading a statement tabled by Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his ICT counterpart Eliud Owalo, Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa revealed that Worldcoin is not registered as a legal entity in Kenya.

“Preliminary investigations reveal that the entity has hired a company in Kenya called Sense Marketing to do the data capture for them in the country. The local representatives of World Coin are Mr Emmanuel Otieno who is described to be in charge of operations and Ms Rael Mwende who is described as a country manager. Both persons are being interrogated by the DCI since yesterday,” said Ichungwa.

He also noted that criminal investigations are also working to establish the authenticity and legality of the aforesaid activities, the safety and protection of the data being harvested, and how the harvesters intend to use the data.

“As a precautionary measure the immigration authorities have been directed to ensure no persons, whether Kenyan or foreign nationals associated with the entity, leaves Kenya without the clearance of the DCI who is in charge of the ongoing investigations,” said Ichungwa.

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