Churches Using Facial Recognition Software To Control Their Members
Researchers from places like the American Religious Identification Survey and the Pew Center on Religion and Public life find that, as the years progress, more and more Americans are declaring themselves to belong to no particular religion, and to have no interest in going to church. In response, religious leaders scratch their heads as if this cultural trend is a mystery, and ask themselves whatever could be causing people to turn away from their glorious services. If religious leaders would honestly look at the record of ever-expanding religious abuses, however, they might ask themselves why anyone bothers to remain in their flocks.
We have all become used to hearing about sexual abuse of children by churches from multiple denominations – not just the Catholic Church. The latest revelation of religious abuse has nothing to do with sex, though.
It has to do with electronic surveillance. Churches have begun using the tools of Big Brother to control their congregants.
One new service, in business for just weeks, but already working with scores of churches around the world, uses facial recognition software to “track the attendance of specific members.”
It’s called Churchix – a spinoff of Israeli software company Face Six. Churchix software scans through video taken through surveillance cameras installed around church grounds in the name of “security”, and then keeps records in a database of which church members are attending church, and what activities they are involved in while at church.
Churchix isn’t designed to prevent violent attacks like the one in South Carolina last week. Its facial recognition software only works when it has a clear photograph of a person ahead of time. So, strangers simply wouldn’t be registered by the system, and wouldn’t trigger any alarms.
Churchix recommends that church leaders manipulate their members into participating into the system. “The church can offer members different incentives that will happily make them look at the camera.” Churches could offer members photo directories, free food, or even financial incentives. Or, religious leaders can simply find a way to take congregants’ photographs without asking their permission.
Then, with video cameras installed throughout the church, the surveillance can begin. Churchix automatically creates data reports of who is coming to church, and who isn’t, so that church leaders can take corrective action.
The CEO of Face Six acknowledges that religious leaders probably aren’t going to ask for the consent of church members before implementing facial recognition surveillance. “I don’t think churches tell people,” he said to Kashmir Hill of Fusion, “We encourage them to do so, but I don’t think they do.”
This electronic surveillance by religious organizations isn’t some external, worldly scheme that’s being foisted upon churches through commercial pressure. Churchix was developed only after several large churches approached Face Six asking for a product that they could use to automatically spy on an control their congregations.
Churchix may have a successful business model, but I think they got the spelling of their product wrong. They should have called it Church Icks.