According to recent reports, certain conservative American churches are encouraging their congregants to install "invasive" spying apps that keeps track of all of their online behavior, including pornographic content and masturbation patterns.
Encouraging Congregants to Install Spying Apps on Their Phones
Preaching and even corporal punishment have both been used by churches over the course of several centuries in an effort to control and shame people based on their sexual orientation.
However, with the advent of smartphone technology came the development of apps that could monitor an individual's activity on the internet down to the second. This made moralizing about internet use significantly more effective.
According to the Daily Star, across the United States, strict Baptist churches are mandating that their members download intrusive spying apps in order to monitor their members' pornographic and Internet activities.
This so-called software is readily available in the form of a number of distinct mobile apps, all of which, in essence, encourage users to pass over all of their personal information to a third party.
An application called Covenant Eyes charges users $16.99 per month and promises to assist users in living porn-free with confidence. As the report revealed, the app keeps track of everything that users do on their smartphones, takes at least one snapshot every minute, and then sends all of this information to an "accountability partner."
It also stated that even while the app has received mostly good feedback, according to Google's statement to WIRED it is in violation of the policies.
Another app called "Fortify" requires users to record information about the most recent time they masturbated. It has been reported that a number of churches recommend this application to their congregations, and it even has tracking capabilities through Facebook.
According to a spokesperson for Meta, advertisers should not provide sensitive information about individuals using Meta's Business Tools because doing so is against the company's regulations.
Requiring to Install 'Covenant Eyes,' 'Accountable2You' Apps
In an email, the pastor of Gracepoint Church in Berkeley, California, Ed Kang, who is also a significant role in the organization, states that volunteer staff members are expected to install either Covenant Eyes or Accountable2You applications "as part of their staff agreement."
As reported by WIRED, Kang denies the notion that church officials were given the instruction to monitor the phone activities of congregants. According to him, in most cases, they designate anybody; nevertheless, the church actively discourages leaders from serving as accountability partners because they believe it places an undue burden on them.
Kang further noted that the current number of Gracepoint parishioners who make use of Covenant Eyes or Accountable2You might be substantially more than 450, and that the pricing structure of Accountable2You is more favorable.
Although the developers of these applications say that they have assisted a great number of users in overcoming their addictions to pornography, experts in the field of sexual health are skeptical that the apps have a good impact that is long-lasting.
University of California, Los Angeles scientist Nicole Praus claims she has never met a user of those apps who emerged from their experience with a more positive view of themselves.
As WIRED revealed, they discovered that both apps are designed to track and record seemingly innocent activities. The apps took advantage of Android accessibility features to keep tabs on the user's every move.