Kenyan Parliament Investigates Sam Altman’s Controversial Eyeball-Scanning Crypto Project

A Kenyan parliamentary committee has been established to investigate the controversial eyeball-scanning crypto project Worldcoin and its rollout in the country.

The committee, which is composed of 15 members of parliament from across the Administration and Internal Security, Communication and Innovation, and Tourism and Wildlife departments, has been given 42 days to complete its investigation.

Worldcoin, founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, is a project that aims to create a global network of crypto-powered digital identities by using a small device called an “orb” to scan people’s eyeballs. The project has been criticized for its privacy implications, as the orb collects a unique identifier from each person’s eye that could be used to track their movements and activities.

In Kenya, Worldcoin began its official rollout in July 2023. However, the project was suspended by the government following a review by Kenyan regulatory bodies. The Communications Authority of Kenya cited concerns about the security and storage of the collected data, as well as the lack of an appropriate framework for the handling of personal data

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

Shortly after, the police in Nairobi raided a Worldcoin warehouse and seized numerous machines involved in the storing of iris data collected from Nairobi residents. Local reports cite Kenya’s Office of Data Protection commissioner Immaculate Kassait saying that the eyeball-scanning crypto company’s parent company, Tools for Humanity, “did not reveal its true intentions” when it registered in the country. 

Kassait said that the company was not supposed to be collecting personal data. She said that Worldcoin was ordered to stop collecting data in May 2023 but the latter reportedly ignored the order.

It was also later revealed that Worldcoin had been collecting data in Kenya since May 2021, when the dystopian-sounding crypto firm began “verifying” 2 million “unique humans” in 30 different countries prior to its official launch.

Local reports say that before its suspension, more than 350,000 Kenyans had given their iris scans in exchange for crypto tokens worth around 7,000 Kenyan shillings (US$49).

The parliamentary committee is expected to look into these concerns and make recommendations on whether or not Worldcoin should be allowed to continue operating in Kenya.

The investigation comes at a time when there is growing scrutiny over the use of biometric data in the cryptocurrency industry. In recent months, there have been reports of biometric data being used to track people’s spending habits and to facilitate identity theft.

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UK, France, and Germany have also launched similar probes into Worldcoin.

Information for this story was found via the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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