How Churches Use Technology to Secretly Collect Data On Their Members

A new documentary “People You May Know” shows how some churches are using technology to secretly collect information on church members in the name of “outreach.”

Filmmaker Charles Kriel explained to Religion Dispatches how the churches worked with right wing data harvesting group Cambridge Analytica:

What’s important to understand is that the Koch brothers commissioned a religious charity, Cofi, and a religious software company, Gloo, to work with Cambridge Analytica to create a platform where churches could specifically target people who are suffering from mental illness or grief in order to recruit them into the churches, and then to weaponize them for the politics of the far right…

Film director Katharina Gellein Vikens said that even small churches are doing data harvesting:

[W]hat we found that really scared me is that a lot of smaller churches have adopted a complete digital interface. And this has happened so fast, because you want sign-in, you want to protect people’s kids, and you want to be able to track people and donations and all these things. And the churches themselves very often tell me, “Oh no, we don’t do that, we hire this software company, they’re very nice, and they do all of our stuff.

…There’s Church Community Builder—there’s a lot of them that we ran into. And even if the church itself goes, “well our privacy policy is of course we don’t share any data with anybody,” the software company doesn’t protect the data at all, or they might be very bad at it. So if you go into the app—and they very often will have downloadable apps—you might find that your data is free to share with anybody. And of course you’ve signed yourself in, you’ve signed in your children, you’ve shared your vulnerabilities. Charles mentioned mental health, but it’s not just mental health, it’s vulnerabilities in general.

After all, as a European, it’s interesting to watch how churches in the States, they fill every need. You have preschool, you have a couple’s night, you have childcare, you have all this stuff that’s free and really hard to say “no” to.

(Source: Religion Dispatches)

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