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Shepherds watching the flocks?

Churches around the world are now using surveillance technology to track services attendance. Churchix, a facial recognition database, has been adopted by churches in the US, India and Spain. The software links what it sees in real- time with photographs, to tell who is and isn't attending services. To introduce the system, organi sations need to get members to submit passport-like images to a database and install cameras in their places of wor ship. Feeds taken from the CCTV are then compared to the pictures in the database to see who attends each week. It is built using the same technology used to identify criminals, problem gamblers and terrorists at airports. The CEO of Face-Six, the Israeli company that makes the software, says 'I understand when people say it's spy software and it intrudes [on] privacy but it's not really like that. It's for ease of use of the church to keep track of people automatically.' He says that the company never set out to sell the software to churches until requests started coming in. 'Within a short period of time we've been approached by 10 different churches from all over the world, all asking for the same thing - give us a face recognition software that can identify members attending our events,' he explained. Installing Churchix lets churches measure things like the male-to-female ratio and the average age of attendees at different services. Churches are even encouraged to set up a checkpoint where members voluntarily register themselves by looking at a camera. The software also has security advantages. 'One church in the United States used the system for security by putting into its database the pictures of known sex offenders. Soon enough, the system indicated that an offender indeed entered the church. No churches in Britain are yet using the product.