National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula has given Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his ICT counterpart Eliud Owalo one week to provide substantive answers on the Worldcoin cryptocurrency data mining fiasco.
This, after the two CSs appeared before the House plenary session on Wednesday to answer concerns over the country’s safety in light of the recently attempted cyber security attack and the Worldcoin scandal with fears abounding that the foreign company was engaged in illegal data mining activities under governments watch.
Legislators had sought to know whether there was a security gap that allowed the company to operate in the country, how it was registered, whether the data collected amounted to a breach of security and what remedial measures have been put in place to protect Kenyans.
“I will give you another week so you can come back with more detailed and satisfactory answers. Please when responding you should give details of who licensed these people to operate in the country and more so from KICC which is a public facility,” said Wetangula.
The Speaker also urged the multi-agency task force investigating the matter to exclude the office of the data protection commissioner from the probe given that it could be compromised.
Wetangula made the ruling after Prof Kindiki told the House that he had established that crimes were committed during Worldcoin operations and he would charge those responsible.
“Crimes were committed; Crimes against the Data Protection Act, crimes against the privacy of Kenyans and the crimes against the penal code have been committed and we will get all those involved so they can face justice,” stated the Interior CS.
Noting that the ministry had already issued a freeze order on the movement into and out of the country for all those involved in the scandal, the CS said he would be requesting other countries for the surrender of those outside Kenyan territory for them to record statements.
“The processors of data must obtain consent from Kenyans in line with our Data Protection Act. If any consent was sought, which was doubtful, it was not acknowledged consent from Kenyans,” he said. Kindiki argued that the issue of transparency of the operations of Worldcoin had been raised in France, India, Germany, the UK and other countries and “it would be unfair to say the government was not proactive enough.”
MPs further took the CS to task to explain whether the country was safe and why the government took time to respond to the issue.
To which he responded, “By the time government is coming in, we must have reasonable information that crimes have been committed. This issue is a serious threat just like terrorism, banditry and the sale of drugs and also just like those who want to intimidate us to use politics to commit crimes.”
“Kenya is safe. But I urge Kenyans that even as we go forward in the technological world we must be alert to the fact that the risks in the physical space are the same in the digital space,” added Kindiki.
Owalo said that the security agencies are investigating whether the development was a targeted data mining attack.
“Globally, data is the new oil and we cannot block our eyes from the interest in our data by foreign entities. We will be able to ascertain the viability of the fears of those saying that what happened was a result of foreigners having an interest in our data,” he said.
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The ICT CS dismissed claims that he and Kindiki were reading from different scripts on the matter.
“At no point has there been a disparity in the position I took and the action by the Interior CS. I explained that at the point of registration, they had met the bare minimum requirements as a data collection firm but in the course of operationalization, certain issues on policy, laws and regulations emerged and in the course of the day government took action on them,” Owalo said.
The CSs are expected to appear before the House on Wednesday next week.