Kenya Accuses Worldcoin Of ‘Espionage’ In Aggressive Banishment Move

By  |  October 9, 2023

Worldcoin, a venture initiated by Sam Altman, the tech entrepreneur behind ChatGPT and the CEO of OpenAI, is now entangled in a controversy involving allegations of espionage. The company has been accused of engaging in the surreptitious scanning of people’s retinas in exchange for cryptocurrency, prompting Kenyan Members of Parliament to brand it a “threat to statehood.”

A recent report released by Kenyan lawmakers has caused a stir, Telegraph reports. It not only condemned Worldcoin’s practices but also strongly recommended the immediate cessation of the project within the country. Thousands of individuals in Kenya have already participated in this controversial procedure, exchanging their retinal scans for cryptocurrency worth around USD 50.00. The Kenyan authorities took a stern stance in August, directing Worldcoin to halt new user registrations. Their concerns extend to data storage methods, raising alarms about the potential exchange of sensitive biometric data for financial incentives.

Despite these admonitions, the Worldcoin app continues its operations for existing users, intensifying the scrutiny from regulatory bodies. Global watchdogs have expressed their reservations about the technology employed by Worldcoin.

A special committee of Kenyan MPs, specifically formed to scrutinize Worldcoin, has called for a thorough investigation into Tools for Humanity, the parent company chaired by Altman. The committee’s report not only advocates the immediate blacklisting of Worldcoin’s website by Kenya’s communications regulator but also urges the suspension of the company’s physical presence within the country, all to be executed within the coming weeks. Furthermore, the report underscores the potential risks posed by Worldcoin’s cryptocurrency aspirations to Kenya’s financial stability.

The parliamentary panel in Kenya has recommended the immediate shutdown of Worldcoin operations in the country due to concerns about the authenticity and legality of its activities in digital identity, financial services, and data security. The panel, consisting of 18 legislators, was formed in August to investigate Altman’s crypto venture, Worldcoin. The lawmakers have called on Kenya’s ICT regulator, the Communication Authority, to halt Worldcoin’s physical and online presence, including blocking related websites’ IP addresses, until appropriate regulations for digital assets are established in the country.

Furthermore, the panel has urged the government to initiate criminal investigations into ‘Tools for Humanity Corp’, a company co-founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman to develop Worldcoin, and its Kenyan partners, including Sense Marketing. The report detailing these recommendations is expected to be presented and discussed soon at the Kenyan National Assembly.

Worldcoin, presenting itself as a pioneering “digital identity and financial network,” employs a unique method that involves scanning individuals’ retinas using an orb to confirm their identity and establish an account. Despite claims of enrolling millions of users globally, Worldcoin faces severe backlash, with accusations that it exploits vulnerable individuals in impoverished countries by enticing them with Worldcoin tokens in exchange for undergoing these scans.

The committee’s investigation revealed that Worldcoin had deployed more than 30 scanning orbs in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. Of particular concern is the fact that the Worldcoin Foundation, the entity overseeing the initiative, has not obtained official authorization to process the data of Kenyan citizens, raising alarming questions about data privacy and legality. Worldcoin was previously touted to have obtained necessary approvals before its rollout in Kenya but that too now appears to be in dispute.

While accusations have been mounting, Worldcoin has chosen to remain silent, not issuing any official response to address the concerns raised by the committee’s findings. Founded in 2019 by Altman, Alex Blania and Max Novendstern, the company operates a network of approximately 150 orbs worldwide, including two in London.

This unfolding controversy serves as a reminder of the ethical quandaries and potential pitfalls associated with cutting-edge technologies, leaving both the tech community and regulatory bodies on high alert.

Featured Image Credits: BBC

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