When software turns churches from sanctuary to surveillance agents


There are the churches you do NOT want to enter if you care about digital rights, or even just privacy.

When software turns churches from sanctuary to surveillance agents /img/churchix.jpg

It so appears that a company called Churchix was founded specifically to let churches track, via facial recognition software, regular attendance or see who’s missing.

Among other things, the software would help churches to know who may need an “attendance reminder”, or be more likely to donate. But face recognition may also be used to blacklist disruptive church visitors.

According to that article, at least in 2015 “most churches using Churchix are doing it without the knowledge of their members”.

The experts quoted in the article are disappointingly moderate in their comments. One says that adding automatic face recognition “[makes going to church] seems like it misses the authenticity.” Seems??? Another mildly comments that “while God sees everything, we’re not sure we want our pastor to be omniscient.” I only want to add:

  • old style CCTV may be unavoidable. But this kind of tracking is enough reason for me to NEVER enter any church building that uses such software, or to support in any way whoever manages that building. I would not accept it in general, but even less from places that, at least in my culture, used to offer “right of asylum”
  • as sickening as it is in and by itself, the “omniscient pastor” is not even the whole picture here

This is not some word processor, that can only do “internal”, and relatively limited damage. What “omniscient pastor” really means is that if a pastor can always, automatically recognize whoever enters the church building, so can everybody else who can hack the computers of that church. Even if tracking like this were right, it should be done with infrastructures and competences way beyond those of 99.99% of churches and “church officials” worldwide.

If you go to church, ask the pastor if they use Churchix. If they do, go to another church right away, and make sure they know why.

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