Churches caught surveilling followers, using Shameware to stop them watching porn

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In some branches of Christianity, watching videos of people going at it is a sinful behaviour. However, outside of church, mass surveillance can also be deemed as sinful. Unfortunately, some churches have been caught surveillance followers to make sure they aren’t looking at pornography.

Churches use Shameware against followers

In a fantastically detailed report by Wired, a number of churches have been found using surveillance tools on their followers. Using an app called Covenant Eyes, members of churches were spied on after congregations.

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The report focuses on a church called Gracepoint, an evangelical Southern Baptist church. With Covenant Eyes, followers’ phones are screenshotted every minute, collecting data for an “accountability partner” to assess.

The app abuses accessibility permissions in phones to constantly have access to a user’s device. Not only does the application screenshot the user’s phone, but it also collects logs of every app opened and every website visited.

A member of Gracepoint revealed that the information gathered from the app was used to shame members. Members receive daily emails from the church that accuse them of sinful behaviour for anything they deem to be sinful. 

In one instance, a member was told all of his browsing activity. The member was flagged for one search which included the hashtag “#gay” in it.

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Despite harassing members for searching up gay topics, Gracepoint claims it is not homophobic. On its website FAQ, the church claims that it’s not a cult, using acceptance of homosexual members as an example of it totally not being a cult.

“So when Grant Hao-Wei Lin came out to a Gracepoint church leader during their weekly one-on-one session, he was surprised to learn that he wasn’t going to be kicked out,” read’s the cult’s websites. “According to his church leader, Hao-Wei Lin says, God still loved him in spite of his “struggle with same-sex attraction.”

Read More: Chinese bus drivers forced to wear emotion detecting bracelets all day

Google takes action

As expected, Gracepoint isn’t the only establishment using this technology to spy on people. The technology has been spread across a wide range of devices by a collection of similar organisations.

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However, digital storefronts are taking action against spyware being spread of their services. For example, Google has since removed Covenant Eyes and other similar software from the Google Play Store. This means that the software is no longer available on Android, although cult leaders could make followers install an APK file on those devices.

The nature of spyware in cults is unfortunately one that will be commonplace. However, it is the responsibility of digital storefronts such as Google and Apple to make sure that it can’t be easily accessed.