State dysfunction to blame for WorldCoin activities, MPs told

Communication Authority of Kenya Director General Ezra Chiloba. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Dysfunction among state agencies and negligence facilitated WorldCoin's activities, estimated to have cost the foreign firm in excess of Sh2.4 billion in inducements to Kenyans.

This emerged from hearings by a parliamentary committee, where data-mining gadgets belonging to the controversial cryptocurrency, WorldCoin, entered the country undetected and without licences.

Investigations by the National Assembly ad-hoc committee unearthed the big business at play involving the beleaguered platform and the legal overlaps that expose Kenyans to cybercrime and identity-spoofing threats.

More about the firm or the storage of the biometric data collected from Kenyans, however, remains unknown to regulatory agencies, as well as the capabilities of the orb gadget used to scan iris biometrics.

Communication Authority of Kenya Director General Ezra Chiloba told the Narok West MP Gabriel Tongoyo-led committee that his agency is conducting a forensic analysis on an orb issued by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations to establish its full capabilities, which he said will "be done in a week or so".  

"The data collected by WorldCoin is not just an image... if decrypted, it shows your identity," said Chiloba.

The CA boss said there was no record that WorldCoin, whose activities he said CA "learnt through the media", had sought prior approvals to facilitate the orbs' clearances by customs officers.

Further, Chiloba said the nature of WorldCoin's use of the orb, which he classified as a communication gadget, and questions on cybersecurity, meant it needed CA's approvals besides the one obtained from the Office of Data Commissioner.

"The technological development in the ICT Sector has witnessed increasing overlap and blurring of lines between the roles of different regulatory agencies owing to ICT's facilitative role in multiple sectors," Chiloba said, adding that better coordination from the agencies involved would have prevented any irregularities.

He argued that WorldCoin ought to have been tested in a "regulatory sandbox" first before it's rollout.

Data Commissioner Immaculate Kassait has been faulted for issuing a certificate to WorldCoin's Tools for Humanity to operate as a data controller and processor.

On Wednesday, MPs argued that the entity should have obtained approvals from the Business Registration Service as well to operate in Kenya. Chiloba also gave a picture of the big data business in which WorldCoin is involved, amid questions about the firm's motives.

Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie alleged WorldCoin was pursuing a "new world order" which Chiloba labelled a "technocracy".

"These people are bringing in a new world order, where there is a currency (WorldCoin) and citizenship (World ID), Kiarie said. 

Officials from Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), admitted that they did not conduct an in-depth due diligence on WorldCoin before granting them space. KICC's acting CEO Patricia Ondeng said they received a request from Expo Momentum, through an Evelyn Adongo, for space for WorldCoin's "product activation".

"Expo Momentum is a valued client and they have brought us other clients before... They booked for four days, which was granted but requested 13 more days, which we rejected owing to long queues that affected the flow of traffic along City Hall way," said Ondeng, revealing that the agency paid Sh441,180 for the space.