Nairobi — Kenyans made the highest subscriptions to the Worldcoin cryptocurrency project out of thirty-four countries where similar operations were mounted.
The Office of the Director of Computer and Cyber Crime revealed on Tuesday that the American firm recruited agents who were deployed across thirty stations in Nairobi to scan and collect iris data for transmission.
Appearing before the National Assembly Adhoc Committee, the agency’s Head of Cyber-security Standards and Policy David Njoka explained that Worldcoin disguised itself as a research institution before escalating its activities of data processing exposing gullible Kenyans.
“A week after the launch of Worldcoin cryptocurrency on 22nd of July, they announced that they have registered over 350,000 Kenyans and in terms of the numbers of data registered globally. Kenyans amounted to around 25 percent which is something of concern,” said Njoka.
He told MPs that Worldcoin Project indicated that the data would be stored in Amazon Web Services in the United States which poses a potential threat due to data sovereignty.
“From our interviews they mentioned that the data was transferred to the Amazon servers based in the US. They had indicated that the data is secure but that needs deeper investigations,” Njoka stated.
Worldcoin had targeted to register 8 billion people in the cryptocurrency platform that aims to provide universal global economy by authenticating individual using retina/iris scans.
In Kenya, Worldcoin operated through local representatives identified as Wangechi Maina and Rael Mwende after legal agreements with their local firms listed as Platinum De Plus Limited, EXP Kenya and Sense Marketing.
Since November 2022, Worldcoin engaged in recruiting 11 companies who were assigned responsibilities of hiring casual agents who were trained to assist Kenyans in downloading the World Coin App and then have the iris captured.
Njoka pointed out that Worldcoin, through user verification of the iris, may have had access to control sensitive data whose safety is still not guaranteed even as investigation continue.
“They dont have a physical office, I think they need to be investigated for doing what they were doing without necessary approvals,” he said.
“A multi international company coming to Kenya to allege to be conducting research involving sensitive information and they wanted the data to be able to train their model in the artificial intelligence platform, they did this without having due approvals given to them,” Njoka explained.
The cryptocurrency industry has been steadily growing in the country with over 4 million Kenyans active cryptocurrency users in the country.
“The rate which world coin was being adopted just like other cyrptocurrencies is also alarmimg to our country, because 350k in one week is quite high contributing 25% of their customers,” Njoka stated.
Concerns over the transparency of Worldcoin operations have been raised in in France, India, Germany, UK and other countries.
Worldcoin offered those who signed up 25 free tokens worth about Sh7,000, drawing thousands of people to multiple sign-up points in the capital Nairobi.
Thousands of Kenyans flocked to Kenyatta International Conference Center Nairobi mid July to have their eyes scanned.
Worldcoin, set up by OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman, began operating in June in Germany and provides users with a private digital identity — a “World ID” — after they get their eye’s unique iris pattern scanned.
The project, according to its founders, aims to solve one of the main challenges facing the crypto industry that largely relies on pseudonyms to operate, leaving it vulnerable to spam bots and scams.
More than 2.1 million people have signed up for Worldcoin across the world, with iris scans conducted in 34 countries, according to the company’s website.
Worldcoin is now trading at $2.37, up from the initial price of $1.70, according to CoinMarketCap.