Monday, November 21, 2022
Is The Truth Now Being Shouted From The Rooftops?
Saturday, November 12, 2022
It's incredible how much the church knows about you when you visit one of its several websites
In 1983, the song of the year was "Every Breath You Take" by the Police, from their album Synchronicity. Written and sung by Sting, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for eight weeks, was nominated for three Grammy Awards (including Song of the Year, Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, and Record of the Year), winning in the first two categories. 
Here are some lyrics from that song:
"Every move you make...I'll be watching you"
Fast forward to April 6, 2021, when the church last updated its website's Privacy Notice (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/legal/privacy-notice). There, we read that when you visit churchofjesuschrist.org, the church collects "personal data that (a) you actively submit to us, (b) we record, and (c) we obtain from third parties. We may process your personal data with or without automatic means, including collection, recording, organization, structuring, storage, adaptation or alteration, analysis, retrieval, consultation, use, disclosure by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, alignment or combination, restriction, erasure, or destruction of your personal data."
What personal information? "You submit personal data to us when you join the Church, seek Church ordinances, request Church materials, request access to Church tools or services [like its website], or engage in other interactions or communications with the Church. When you interact with the Church, we generally process name, birth date, birthplace, telephone number, email address, physical address, photo, gender, donation/payment information, and so on."
This information can (and probably is) cross-referenced with external, third-party data: "We may process and make publicly available personal data obtained from published sources. We may process and publish living information in compliance with applicable local laws." as well as...
If you're logged into churchofjesuschrist.org, then it can track you on an individual basis. If you haven't logged in, then your visits to the website can be tracked on a household basis. That's because the church can collect, monitor and cross-reference your usage data with with your home's IP address -- a unique code assigned by your internet service provider (ISP) that identifies a device on the internet or a local network which contains location information. .
Thus, it doesn't matter if you've logged in to churchofjesuschrist.org; the church still knows that somebody at Joe Anybody's home/IP address is visiting and using the site, no matter if he/she has logged in to their church website account or not.
"Oh, can't you see, You belong to me?"
But that's only half the story.
Here's WHY the church collects your data (I've highlighted a few of the more salient portions):
In other words, the church can and does monitor your usage of its website and can factor that data in to your membership status, temple recommend status, eligibility to partake of the sacrament, volunteer and leadership positions, and more.
In fact, the church can and likely does share its findings with other church entities: "We may transfer personal data to any Church entity to accomplish Church purposes. Your general membership information (if you are a member of the Church) and any optional information you may choose to provide (for example, email address and photo or video that you provide or that we capture with your permission) may be shared with Church members in your ward or branch and stake or district, or with other participants in a program in which you participate, as necessary for the Church purposes listed above."
I have not heard of any instances where a member's temple recommend or membership status was jeopardized by information collected on its website. But could that happen? I believe so.
The Scripture Citation Index (https://scriptures.byu.edu) provides an alternate source of conference talks and scriptures for researchers. Created and maintained by Stephen W. Liddle and Richard C. Galbraith, it contains the King James Version and Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. It also contains transcripts from all General Conferences between 1942 and the present, speakers recorded in the Journal of Discourses between 1839 and 1886. Finally, includes citations from the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Because scriptures.byu.edu is operated under a BYU domain name (which is owned by the church), there is no way of knowing if there is any data interchange between scriptures.byu.edu and the church's IT (Information Technology) Department. It does use Google Analytics (UA-1428500-1), but we have no way of knowing who has access to that particular Analytics account.
This blog post isn't intended to scare or freak out anybody. Instead, it's meant to inform you that the lyrics found in "Every Breath You Take" definitely apply to those who visit the church's online properties, and that the church has the means and opportunity (and some would argue, the motive) to use data collected via those online properties to evaluate your worthiness and standing in the church.