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Covenant Eyes app reinstated in Google Play store

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NASHVILLE (BP) — Google Play has reinstated apps for pornography accountability software Covenant Eyes and Accountable2You after resolving invasion of privacy concerns that software leaders said were erroneous.

Google Play reinstated the apps by March 1 after suspending them in September 2022 over concerns that the apps used spyware in tracking a user’s activity on pornographic websites.

Covenant Eyes announced the reinstatement in a March 14 press release, stating that Google Play approved a new version of the app March 1.

“For 162 days, we’ve been working toward and praying for a favorable outcome to our appeal,” Covenant Eyes spokesperson Dan Armstrong said. “We’re grateful that people who want to quit porn are able to get our app through the Google Play Store again.”

Google Play had accused the company of violating Google’s malware policy. Both companies denied the claims and presented their products as useful spiritual tools.

“Accountability is powerful and needs to be done appropriately,” Armstrong said. “When it comes to churches, leaders must truly commit to creating safe places with safe processes for addressing issues like pornography. Strugglers need to have a safe environment to be honest and vulnerable about their journey.

“Help from unwanted porn use should be for everyone, whether it’s men, women, or children struggling.”

Jason Thacker, chair of research in technology ethics for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has said the apps can help Christians and others struggling with pornography addiction, and can also be a useful discipleship tool when used properly.

“I believe that churches and religious employers can use these tools but must do their due diligence to understand how they work, what is being collected, and who has access to it. Some churches and organizations may choose not to use them though, depending on their situation and context,” Thacker, who leads the ERLC’s Digital Public Square outreach, has said.

“Many organizations filter the internet using hardware or software-based tools that block access to certain sites and apps rather than employing personal accountability software. We must remember that the use of pornography is inherently a deeply intimate and isolating temptation, so these tools must be accompanied by trusted friends and transparent relationships, rather than simply being seen as a one-sided fix for a much deeper problem.”

Accountable2You had accused Google Play of targeting the app because of its stand against sin.

“Accountable2You markets our services to individuals, families, and the church. We have a group plan that is designed for a church to share a discount with their members,” the company has said of its service.

“By design, the pastor and church leadership do not see any member’s activity. Members can share their activity with whomever they choose or not at all — and we do not encourage pastors to receive accountability reports from their congregants.”