August 21, 2023 at 14:13 GMTModified date: August 21, 2023 at 14:13 GMT
August 21, 2023 at 14:13 GMT

Kenya sets up parliamentary committee to look into Worldcoin

The Kenyan government has formed a parliamentary committee to investigate the Worldcoin project, according to reports.

Kenya sets up parliamentary committee to look into Worldcoin

The Worldcoin crypto project is facing the hot seat in Kenya following the suspension of its activities in the country. The Kenyan government has now formed a parliamentary committee to investigate the project and its assets.

As per a local daily report by The Star, the newly formed 15-member joint ad-hoc committee would be chaired by Narok West Member of Parliament Gabriel Tongoyo. It consists of members from a myriad of teams like the departmental committees on Administration and Internal Security, Communication and Innovation, and Tourism and Wildlife.

The committee has been given 42 days to look into Worldcoin before reporting back to the House. The move comes after Kenya’s recent suspension of the project’s activities, which happened less than three weeks back.

Back in May, the country’s Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) had ordered Worldcoin’s parent company, Tools for Humanity, to stop collecting personal data. The crypto startup was instructed to stop its iris scans and the collection of facial recognition and other personal data in Kenya.

However, Worldcoin reportedly ignored this initial order until Kenya’s Ministry of Interior and Administration suspended it following its official launch. According to Interior Cabinet Secretary Kindiki Kithure, the government is concerned by the project’s activities which poses serious security risks. The main concern has been registration of citizens through the collection of eyeball/iris data.

On this, Kithure in a statement said: “Relevant security, financial services and data protection agencies have commenced inquiries and investigations to establish the authenticity and legality of the aforesaid activities.”

Various regulatory bodies in the country have also disapproved of the crypto project’s way of working. When the court suspended Worldcoin’s activities, Justice Nixon Sifuna ordered that the data already collected by Worldcoin between April 2022 and August 2023 must be preserved and kept away until the completion of the lawsuit.

The formation of the committee in Kenya also comes at a time when the Kithure and his ICT counterpart Eliud Owalo were expected to appear in Parliament this week to discuss the matter for the second time. National Assembly speaker Moses Wetangula stated: “In view of the foregoing, the two cabinet secretaries that were scheduled to appear tomorrow before this House, will instead appear before the committee to provide information on the matter.”

The Worldcoin project gained much popularity when it was officially launched 24 July 2023. It is co-founded by Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, which is behind the AI-based chatbot ChatGPT.

The project sells itself on its vision and aim to make differentiation between humans and online bots easier. To do the same, the startup created a digital ID system based on proof-of-personhood. The ID is generated by scanning an individual’s iris which then gives them a World ID. This process also offers users the project’s native cryptocurrency, $WLD coin.

However, the hype around the project came with its own controversies where people questioned this aforementioned method. This soon grabbed the attention of the regulatory authorities of various countries. The governments in Nigeria, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Germany and Kenya are already investigating the project.