WorldCoin exploitation in Kenya

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Alan Orth

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Jan 6, 2023, 8:49:52 AM1/6/23
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Dear list,

Has anyone seen these WorldCoin booths at shopping centers around Kenya? There's one at the Mountain View Mall in Nairobi. I immediately Googled it and found out it's—no surprise—a shady scam to collect people's biometric and personal data and send it god knows where in exchange for twenty-five WorldCoins.

The WorldCoin website says:

> Worldcoin tokens (WLD) are not intended to be available to people or companies who are residents of, or are located, incorporated or have a registered agent in, the United States or other restricted territories.

Well that's a good sign! LOL! Nothing fishy going on here at all. See this excellent article from MIT Technology Review from 2022-04 detailing some investigative reporting on WorldCoin's operations in Indonesia:


I won't go into it right now, but I'm a cryptocurrency skeptic since Bitcoin came on the scene and I have never owned a single coin, token, NFT, or anything remotely related to that nonsense. Is there some regulatory authority who should be notified about this? Or is the Kenyan government in on it?

Today at the Mountain View Mall I had a lively discussion with a gaggle of WorldCoin employees ("subcontractors" was the word they used) and they were shocked that I was saying it was a scam, challenged me to prove there was no blockchain, etc and told me to lower my voice. Laughing my ass off...

Anyway... let me know what you think, if you've seen these things, or know anyone who has gotten involved.

P.S. I'm back in Nairobi permanently, who wants to meet up?
worldcoin.jpeg

Dennis Mungai

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Jan 6, 2023, 8:58:57 AM1/6/23
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There's also another one at the Waterfront Mall, Karen. 
Never interacted with them in any way though. 

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Adrian Kibet

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Jan 7, 2023, 2:10:36 AM1/7/23
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So long as they aren't a local financial services company the CBK is very limited in what it does. I believe there's some strict requirements about what the CBK can police. Even regulating mpesa was a big issue some time back. It's probably even worse if Kenyans aren't spending any money in the process.

Alan Orth

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Jan 7, 2023, 5:18:43 AM1/7/23
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Ouch, these guys are just taking people's biometric and personal information in exchange for magic internet beans. It's obviously a scam and will end badly. Unfortunately, it's like telling your uninformed friends about security online—they just say, "Eh, I don't have anything to hide."

Anyways, if you see them, engage them and report back here. We can plant a seed of doubt in their minds.

But really I wonder what's in it for WorldCoin. This is different from OneCoin, which also preyed on people in developing countries, but in that case OneCoin was actually taking people's money and doing fuckall with it. Listen to the amazing Crypto Queen podcast from BBC to learn more about that one...

Ciao, 

king...@gmail.com

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Jan 9, 2023, 1:11:53 AM1/9/23
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Welcome back Alan.

When it comes to user data, I guess the closest would be the office of the data protection commissioner (https://www.odpc.go.ke/).

They've been flexing their muscles recently, so they might be able to do something.

Munyoki Kilyungi

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Jan 10, 2023, 10:57:55 AM1/10/23
to Alan Orth, nairo...@googlegroups.com, Benson Muite
Alan Orth <alan...@gmail.com> aliandika:

> Dear list,
>
> Has anyone seen these WorldCoin booths at shopping centers around Kenya?

I've just been ambushed by one in Sarit Center.

[...]

>
> P.S. I'm back in Nairobi permanently,

Word!

> who wants to meet up?

I'm game! This coming Saturday evening? Anyone
else can join in if they want to \m/\m/.
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Alan Orth

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Jan 11, 2023, 8:10:31 AM1/11/23
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Hey,

So they are in Sarit too? Has anyone else talked to them, or only me? Come on, you gotta make them earn their keep, not to mention plant that seed of doubt. When this comes tumbling down in the coming months or years they will be like "Ah yeah, there was that one guy who tried to remind me.". ;)

I could meet up on Saturday evening. What are you thinking? Coffee? Burger? Westlands would be best for me personally, don't really feel like going to CBD these days...

Cheers,

Munyoki Kilyungi

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Jan 12, 2023, 2:34:36 AM1/12/23
to Alan Orth, nairo...@googlegroups.com, Benson Muite, Myk Kiruthi
Alan Orth <alan...@gmail.com> aliandika:

> Hey,
>
> So they are in Sarit too?

Yeah. I saw them right outside the Healthy-U
shop.

> Has anyone else talked to them, or only me? Come
> on, you gotta make them earn their keep, not to mention plant that seed of
> doubt. When this comes tumbling down in the coming months or years they
> will be like "Ah yeah, there was that one guy who tried to remind me.". ;)

I agree. Planting that seed makes loads of sense
when you have that motivation+energy ;). Seems
you did a +1 job on that front \m/\m/.

@Kiruthi may have had to do ad business with them.
I don't know how that went though, but the tale
was quite intriguing. If he's comfortable with
talking about it in a public forum, he could share
some useful intel ;)

> I could meet up on Saturday evening.

That's a plan. I'm game for this. What time in
the evening?

> What are you thinking? Coffee? Burger?

A cold beer for me would be nice. [Good] Tea
would be a nice alternative.

> Westlands would be best for me personally, don't really feel like going to
> CBD these days...

... I agree with this. Westlands also gets
crowded these days :(. Any ideas for a venue?
FWIW, we could also do a non-crowded spot that
doesn't have a lot of people and that's not
Westlands. I'll try asking around and recommend a
space later. Suggestions are welcome!

May the cosmic forces be gentle to you!
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Adrian Teri

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Jan 13, 2023, 2:17:11 AM1/13/23
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Most recent in prime news has been land & developers. It seems scammers, authorities/institutions and even politicians are the 3 legs of this "venture" stool.

It's not like Kenyans aren't aware. I've seen a post up on Reddit where the poster knows these ventures usually fold in ~2-3 months but they've been surprised with one that got them. It closed up shop in 3 days! I'm worried KE is deeply immersed in a gambling culture. It isn't sports and lottery machines anymore!

I'm with you on being a luddite on matters blockchain and even further smart contracts(you get double whammied if you don't know how to read code and NOT be a contract lawyer). Regardless of this, it's simply being ignorant not to know what the year's been for #crytocurrency. The under-belly has been exposed as it adding NO new value, well except streamlining ransomware campaigns, worthless images of monkeys and no recourse in recovering stolen funds. It's simply choosing to be stupid given events like  FTX, Terra Luna, Numerous rug pulls ...etc


Regards,
Adrian Teri


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Munyoki Kilyungi

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Jan 14, 2023, 1:34:33 AM1/14/23
to Alan Orth, nairo...@googlegroups.com, Benson Muite
Alan Orth <alan...@gmail.com> aliandika:

> Hey,
>
> So they are in Sarit too? Has anyone else talked to them, or only me? Come
> on, you gotta make them earn their keep, not to mention plant that seed of
> doubt. When this comes tumbling down in the coming months or years they
> will be like "Ah yeah, there was that one guy who tried to remind me.". ;)
>
> I could meet up on Saturday evening. What are you thinking? Coffee? Burger?
> Westlands would be best for me personally, don't really feel like going to
> CBD these days...
>

Are you still up for hanging out? How about Urban
Burger at WestGate?
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Benson Muite

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Jan 14, 2023, 1:41:28 AM1/14/23
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On 1/14/23 09:34, Munyoki Kilyungi wrote:

>>
>
> Are you still up for hanging out? How about Urban
> Burger at WestGate?
Cannot do anything today. Would be interested in giving a presentation
(online) on using a webframework written in Scheme for next meetup. Some
people may choose to meet in person.
>

D M

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Jan 14, 2023, 3:39:07 AM1/14/23
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Sounds good!

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Munyoki Kilyungi

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Jan 14, 2023, 4:49:37 AM1/14/23
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Benson Muite <benson...@emailplus.org>
aliandika:
Let's try to organise a meet-up next month. First
Saturday of the month. WDYT?

>>
>
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Munyoki Kilyungi

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Jan 14, 2023, 5:03:13 AM1/14/23
to Alan Orth, nairo...@googlegroups.com, Benson Muite
Alan Orth <alan...@gmail.com> aliandika:

> Hey,
>
> So they are in Sarit too? Has anyone else talked to them, or only me? Come
> on, you gotta make them earn their keep, not to mention plant that seed of
> doubt. When this comes tumbling down in the coming months or years they
> will be like "Ah yeah, there was that one guy who tried to remind me.". ;)
>
> I could meet up on Saturday evening. What are you thinking? Coffee? Burger?
> Westlands would be best for me personally, don't really feel like going to
> CBD these days...
>

Let's push this for next Saturday should that
still be feasible.
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Benson Muite

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Feb 3, 2023, 12:56:51 AM2/3/23
to Munyoki Kilyungi, nairo...@googlegroups.com
On 1/14/23 12:49, Munyoki Kilyungi wrote:
> Benson Muite <benson...@emailplus.org>
> aliandika:
>
>> On 1/14/23 09:34, Munyoki Kilyungi wrote:
>>
>>>>
>>>
>>> Are you still up for hanging out? How about Urban
>>> Burger at WestGate?
>> Cannot do anything today. Would be interested in giving a presentation
>> (online) on using a webframework written in Scheme for next meetup. Some
>> people may choose to meet in person.
>
> Let's try to organise a meet-up next month. First
> Saturday of the month. WDYT?
FOSDEM is this weekend.
What about next Saturday. Am happy to talk on either
"Deploying Artanis"
https://gitlab.com/hardenedlinux/artanis
"Open Source Shared Hosting Control Panels"

Other talk suggestions welcome.

Times (presentation and online presence) can either be 11:00-13:00 EAT
or 16:00-18:00 EAT.

Munyoki Kilyungi

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Feb 3, 2023, 8:52:13 AM2/3/23
to Benson Muite, nairo...@googlegroups.com
Benson Muite <benson...@emailplus.org>
aliandika:

> On 1/14/23 12:49, Munyoki Kilyungi wrote:
>> Benson Muite <benson...@emailplus.org>
>> aliandika:
>>
>>> On 1/14/23 09:34, Munyoki Kilyungi wrote:
>>>
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>> Are you still up for hanging out? How about Urban
>>>> Burger at WestGate?
>>> Cannot do anything today. Would be interested in giving a presentation
>>> (online) on using a webframework written in Scheme for next meetup. Some
>>> people may choose to meet in person.
>>
>> Let's try to organise a meet-up next month. First
>> Saturday of the month. WDYT?
> FOSDEM is this weekend.

Yeah. This makes things tricky.

> What about next Saturday.

Yeah. This sounds like a plan. Do we make it
virtual? Or physical? Or a hybrid event? If we
can get a space, we can make this a hybrid event.
Is there anyone on this list who can hustle a
space? ONA.io used to be that space back in the
day, but our benevolent benefactors/champions for
that space are no longer there.

> Am happy to talk on either
> "Deploying Artanis"
> https://gitlab.com/hardenedlinux/artanis
> "Open Source Shared Hosting Control Panels"
>

This sounds dope.

> Other talk suggestions welcome.
>

I could a short talk for a matrix db on top of
lmdb in Common Lisp - something that's a WIP.

> Times (presentation and online presence) can either be 11:00-13:00 EAT
> or 16:00-18:00 EAT.
>

Should we not get a space to do the hybrid event,
we could have a virtual event at 11:00-13:00 EAT
to accomodate people not here in KE, and then do a
physical hang-out at 16:00 thereabouts for anyone
who wants to hang-out physically. WDYT?
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Benson Muite

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Feb 10, 2023, 4:04:29 AM2/10/23
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Ok.
>
>> Other talk suggestions welcome.
>>
>
> I could a short talk for a matrix db on top of
> lmdb in Common Lisp - something that's a WIP.
This would be great.
>
>> Times (presentation and online presence) can either be 11:00-13:00 EAT
>> or 16:00-18:00 EAT.
>>
>
> Should we not get a space to do the hybrid event,
> we could have a virtual event at 11:00-13:00 EAT
> to accommodate people not here in KE, and then do a
> physical hang-out at 16:00 thereabouts for anyone
> who wants to hang-out physically. WDYT?
>
Virtual works for me. If people want to meet at a place with internet,
that also works to allow for hybrid.

Probably also good to plan for 4 March/ 1 April.

Benson Muite

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Feb 11, 2023, 4:12:06 AM2/11/23
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Munyoki Kilyungi

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Feb 15, 2023, 6:51:28 AM2/15/23
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I would suggest let's make a plan for March 4TH.
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Dennis Mungai

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Feb 16, 2023, 5:13:31 AM2/16/23
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This is far worse than we thought it would be. Some local techpreneurs are already pushing and capping hard for this shady entity. See this.



Screenshot_20230216_131253_Instagram.jpg

Alan Orth

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Apr 1, 2023, 4:14:48 AM4/1/23
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Oh wow, and look at this now!


So Sam Altman is behind both OpenAI / ChatGPT as well as Worldcoin. Sheesh...

Adrian Teri

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May 26, 2023, 9:12:46 AM5/26/23
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This pops up again and guess who's raising funds for it? Sam. Yap that Sam, Cofounder of OpenAI


Ignoring the obvious "we won't sell your eyeballs to anyone" I'm curious of potential uses of such data. Security/Identification? Most immigration type of verifications use your fingerprints... Health? Maybe ... 

Regards,
Adrian Teri

Alan Orth

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Jun 7, 2023, 1:55:48 AM6/7/23
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Just saw one of these at Sarit Centre too. The biggest red flag for me is this bit from the footer of worldcoin.org:

> Worldcoin (WLD) tokens are not intended to be available to people or companies who are residents of, or are located, incorporated or have a registered agent in, the United States or other restricted territories.

Yeah, operating without regulatory oversight. Nothing fishy going on here! Also, I stay away from anything related to "crypto" or "blockchain" with a ten-foot pole.

Regards,

P.S. has anyone signed up? :P

Bastian Blankenburg

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Jun 7, 2023, 2:42:29 AM6/7/23
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Since this keeps coming up, I’d like to know if anyone here has actual evidence for “shady” behaviour of Worldcoin, or at least better reasons for mistrust than an ad-hominem argument because of Sam Altman. I’m not a fan of the guy at all, but that doesn’t mean that Worldcoin can’t be sound. 

Their privacy-protecting mechanism seems pretty sound to me. See

That is, if the “Orb” doesn’t submit data it shouldn’t submit. To be able to verify that, they’d need to offer some audit mechanism for their Orbs on-location.

But anyway, I don’t see any outright red flags there.

NB: we’re considering accepting them as a trustable ID source for our UTU Trust mechanism (https://utu.io/).

Best,
Bastian


Elizabeth Kariuki

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Jun 7, 2023, 6:04:25 AM6/7/23
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Well, for one, they did not get informed consent from the people they were scanning, especially in third world countries. They just offered them free money to agree to it. Two, their subcontractors are scanning people under the age of 18, which is against Worldcoins T&S. People were accepting terms and services in English even when they don't speak the language, just to get the free money. There's a reason they are recruiting heavily in the Global South. This wouldn't fly in America and the EU.
 
Privacy concerns: 
> Worldcoin says it eventually wants to erase the iris images to protect the privacy of those who sign up for its currency. If perfected, the company says the technology will distill the image of each set of irises into a unique string of letters and numbers, called an iris-hash, to be stored in Worldcoin’s database. As the company’s data consent form states, data gathered by the Orb will be used for “purposes such as training of our neural network for the recognition of human irises.”

The company has not publicly committed to when it will stop storing images of scanned irises or the multitude of other data it collects. The data consent form gives users the option of withdrawing their consent, but it is unclear how Worldcoin would erase the data of an individual user stored in its banks if all the data is anonymized. It is also unclear whether it will ever erase the images already in its database. The data consent form says Worldcoin can share user data with third parties who can use the data as they see fit.

See: https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/04/06/1048981/worldcoin-cryptocurrency-biometrics-web3/,  https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/richardnieva/worldcoin-crypto-eyeball-scanning-orb-problems



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Adrian Teri

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Jun 10, 2023, 12:44:34 AM6/10/23
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Heard of UTU for the 1st time and have some questions ...

1. Are your AI models blackboxes? Can one verify them? Do you publicly share stats regarding their accuracy, recall etc?
2. The whitepapers aptly state how diverse and cross-cutting sectors you are and/or wishing to be in. You must have multiple models. In the 100s to 1000s? What's their frequency of updates(training + testing)? Is this info publicly available(or better) visible to users(in context of their use - browser plugin, apps, interaction messages etc)?
3. Speaking of models and "blackboxes" are they accustomed to the diversity of language and culture? I see the company has clients in Brazil and probably expanding to more countries...
4, Why do you need a blockchain? From which company? IBM? Yes you claim it's to hide/protect users but in the day-to-day ops how do you troubleshoot problems without visibility of this data?
5. Following the storage issue is a legal and informed consent one. Do you seek & get consent from people(contacts collected) you've gained info about?
6. Following 5. UTU has to be at least a data processor if not a controller. However, I don't see it listed as registered on #KE's Office of the Data Protection Commissioner(ODPC) - https://www.odpc.go.ke/registered-data-processors-and-controllers/

Lastly credulity and not trust would be more appropo for slogans and writings as you possibly can't have firm beliefs/confidence especially with your AI-driven models. Maybe I'm wrong depending on your answers on 2 and 3 ....

Regards,
Adrian Teri


Bastian Blankenburg

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Jun 11, 2023, 12:10:11 PM6/11/23
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Hi,

On 10 Jun 2023, at 07:43, Adrian Teri <adri...@gmail.com> wrote:

Heard of UTU for the 1st time and have some questions ...

sure

1. Are your AI models blackboxes? Can one verify them? Do you publicly share stats regarding their accuracy, recall etc?

We’re experimenting with AI models which decide whose feedback to show a user in a given situation, i.e. which persons in the user’s network are most likely to have the most relevant feedback for what the user is looking at. But those aren’t actually in production yet, production currently uses much simpler heuristics for that. In any case, this is in effect a curation function to decide what to show first, but always giving the user the option to dig deeper if they want to.

2. The whitepapers aptly state how diverse and cross-cutting sectors you are and/or wishing to be in. You must have multiple models. In the 100s to 1000s? What's their frequency of updates(training + testing)? Is this info publicly available(or better) visible to users(in context of their use - browser plugin, apps, interaction messages etc)?
3. Speaking of models and "blackboxes" are they accustomed to the diversity of language and culture? I see the company has clients in Brazil and probably expanding to more countries...

Ultimately we might need multiple models, yes. But as mentioned, this is still experimental. It could also turn out that we need only one model with different fine-tunings.

4, Why do you need a blockchain? From which company? IBM? Yes you claim it's to hide/protect users but in the day-to-day ops how do you troubleshoot problems without visibility of this data?

The mechanism is built on a public blockchain, so this increases transparency. If we tell a user that some contact of their contact endorsed some product or provider, there’s a blockchain transaction for that that can be verified by the user. I.e. they don’t need to trust UTU in this regard. However, ids are only hashes on-chain, and wether that user is able to decode that and identify the endorser’s identity depends on which data the endorser and the user’s direct contact shared. 
We’re also thinking of providing a zero-knowledge-proof mechanism for proving that the endorser is indeed a contact of the user’s contact, but that’s future work.

5. Following the storage issue is a legal and informed consent one. Do you seek & get consent from people(contacts collected) you've gained info about?

We don’t actually store any data about users who don’t actively sign up with UTU. Contacts of users are only connected when those contact also sign up.

6. Following 5. UTU has to be at least a data processor if not a controller. However, I don't see it listed as registered on #KE's Office of the Data Protection Commissioner(ODPC) - https://www.odpc.go.ke/registered-data-processors-and-controllers/

UTU’s structure is a bit complicated, responsibilities are distributed among some foreign registered companies and a Kenyan one that mostly does the coding. We've inquired about this with ODPC which companies to register for what but that’s still in progress..

Lastly credulity and not trust would be more appropo for slogans and writings as you possibly can't have firm beliefs/confidence especially with your AI-driven models. Maybe I'm wrong depending on your answers on 2 and 3 ....

Yes you’re wrong :) We believe that UTU’s model captures how people actually trust very well — people trust other people whom they know. They might trust different people for different things, but that’s basically it. And trust in this sense is transitive to a degree — if someone trusts me that I’m knowledgeable enough about computers to give them a recommendation, they’ll most likely accept when I say, “for this particular task, let me refer to a friend of mine who has experience with the model you’re looking at”.
UTU’s model tries to automate this to a high degree, i.e. provide the most relevant feedback from their (extended) network at the right time. UTU never tells any user whom or what to trust, only what their (relevant) network thinks about it. The user can then decide for themselves whether they want to trust or not, or to dig deeper. 
So yes, UTU does indeed provide infrastructure for facilitating trust, according to this trust model.

Best,
Bastian

Mike McKay

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Jul 24, 2023, 5:29:28 AM7/24/23
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I've enjoyed the discussion on WorldCoin here and have also been worried/intrigued by it's Kenyan focus. 

Seems like Kenya was part of the beta testing and now it's launching globally:

https://www.reuters.com/technology/openais-sam-altman-launches-worldcoin-crypto-project-2023-07-24/

This is the part of the article that I found most interesting:

"World IDs will be necessary in the age of generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT, which produce remarkably humanlike language. World IDs could be used to tell the difference between real people and AI bots online."

I expect any AI worth it's weight in Bitcoin could spoof a World ID, but the problem of "telling the difference between real people and AI" is very real. And it's not just just Blade Runners, I've already wondered a few times if email I have received from legitimate companies was written by an AI.

Mike 

Bastian Blankenburg

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Jul 24, 2023, 6:13:10 AM7/24/23
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I find it a bit funny how folks expect magical things from AI. How would AI be able to break safe encryption schemes? It it could, those schemes would already be broken right now, and we’d have much bigger problems than spoofing of Worldcoin IDs (Worldcoin uses libsodium, a widely-used crypto lib providing implementations of widely-used crypto algos).

Dennis Mungai

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Jul 29, 2023, 8:56:22 AM7/29/23
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The office of the data protection commissioner has taken note of Worldcoin's activities in Kenya, urging the public to take precautions on their dealings with them https://twitter.com/ODPC_KE/status/1684869953378283520?t=v2_ZkxdinsQMm7OIHviH2g&s=19

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