Big Brother Comes to Mass: Churches Now Use Facial Recognition

George Orwell’s worst nightmare may be coming true. Big Brother has already made its way into our daily lives by tracking our daily routines, tracking our online real-world presences. And now, higher powers are able to track our religious and spiritual lives as well, as more and more churches across the globe turning to facial recognition software as a way to anonymously track member attendance and devotion.

Big Brother Comes to Church

The Israeli-based facial recognition software company Skakash has recently released Churchix: software intended to be used by churches as a way to track the attendance and behavior of individual church members. The software uses facial recognition to analyze the individual faces of each member, using the differences between members’ facial features in order to create a database of church-goers. The church will then be able to upload the database for their own personal uses, as a way to encourage increased membership and devotion to their faith.

Why are churches tracking us?

Founder and CEO of Skakash and creator of Churchix Moshe Greenshpan says that it will be especially useful for bigger churches, as it is harder to keep track of their multiple entrances and exits, as well as get to know their members on a personal level.
However, churches can also use this tool for a variety of self-serving reasons as well. By analyzing their databases, churches are able to see which members come often, anonymously and/or privately attending their services without much engagement with the church community itself. The megachurches would feel more comfortable with asking these specific members for donations, or other favors.

Additionally, by tracking the attendance record of each individual member using Churchix, churches will be able to call up people who regularly attend services, but have missed one or two, and ask them why they weren’t present, and if they intend on returning anytime soon. And for those troublesome church members who cause disturbances during services, churches will be able to easily track them down, barring them from returning (quite a contradiction to the Pope’s own views; “Church doors should be open to everyone…”).

When Will This Happen?

Actually, it already has been, and for quite some time. Before creating Churchix, Greenshpan took a worldwide survey of megachurches in 2005, asking them if they used any technology to keep track of their followings. The results of the survey show that 72 percent of churches with numbers ranging from 100-3,000 members have been using some kind of software to track members already, prior to facial recognition software such as security cameras. What’s more, Greenshpan says that most churches that track their members using some kind of software do it anonymously, without their members knowing.

Over 40 churches have already turned to Churchix—eight of which are currently using it anonymously in the US.

With facial recognition software already a part of our daily lives, with uses ranging from catching unsuspecting speedsters at traffic lights, tagging our friends automatically on Facebook, and creating entire albums based on face recognition on mac and pc photo apps, Greenshpan and megachurches are hoping that over time people will overcome their fear of Big Brother’s watchful eye, as we get around to accepting facial recognition as a normal part of our existence.

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