Facial recognition can be hugely useful, but also hugely toxic

Face Off — Facial Recognition In Churches

As you know I am a massive fan of technology, but sometimes you do have to take a step back and consider its uses.

On of the technologies that has given me mixed feelings is the use of facial recognition that is being deployed in churches to track attendance.

Companies like http://churchix.com have been doing this for some time and there is a great deal of sense to it for certain cases like security or protection of vulnerable adults and children as it is able to detect individuals that might be a threat to the congregation or meeting.

What I am not convinced of is it’s use to track attendance.

The use of body scanners to detect footfall is something I am very comfortable with and have implemented many times. Well designed it can tell you with near perfect accuracy the volume of people in a building or complex and where they go.

A heatmap of where people are on a map can help you work out where to position resources

Good platforms can even differentiate between male and female, adult and child.

All this data is great for you to establish patterns and work out where you need to put your greeters, if you are growing in the right area and even where the best place to put your coffee stand or volunteers area would be.

But none of this tracks who you are. You are just a silhouette on a heatmap.

Facial recognition however takes it deeper. It can track exactly who you are as well as where you went.

And I can see the benefits from a corporate perspective. It would give you the ability to understand who in the congregation is the most engaged, who attended what and who they brought with them.

You could then easily communicate with the committed and also reach out to those who you want to attend more.

But what I am not conviced of is the reason why this is needed, as it perpetuates the spectre of an attendance culture. One where the Christian is measured not on their standing with Jesus, but measured on their level of attendance to church functions. In other words the more you attend, the more ‘committed’ you are.

I have a big problem with this. Mostly because it is far from scriptual. Commitment is to Christ and our involvement in Church is critical, but to have anyone judge peoples spiritual health based on their attendance to their church is just plain wrong.

In the right hands, with the right heart, this technology can keep people safe and help us provide a better level of service, but in the wrong hands it is something that could be used to create a very toxic culture.

And, I suppose that is true about just about everything. It is not the ‘thing’ that is wrong, but often just how it is used.

What do you think? Should this technology be used in Churches? Are you planning to implement something similar?

If you are interested in talking to us about your digital strategy for Church, we would love to speak to you. Just drop us a line at hello@digitalchurch.com to start a conversation today.

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