5 minute read

Is Accountability Software Just “Shameware?” 

Last Updated: September 23, 2022

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. He has also served as a Bible teacher, pastoral assistant, and music director at his local church. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

Covenant Eyes is an anti-porn app for people who desire freedom from pornography but feel like they don’t have enough self-control to stop watching on their own. It’s an accountability tool for people who want to live out their beliefs and ideals and break free from the shame of a secret life.  

An article published by WIRED magazine called out Covenant Eyes (among other accountability apps) as “shameware”–a tool for shaming and controlling people. Ironically, we heartily agree with many of the concerns raised in this article! Spying on people is damaging and counterproductive. Our usage policy explicitly prohibits using Covenant Eyes to monitor someone without their authorization. We do not allow spouses to use Covenant Eyes to spy on one another or employers to secretly monitor employees. We also turn away parole officers who want to use our software to monitor parolees.  

We didn’t build Covenant Eyes for these situations, and it’s not an effective tool when used as spyware or “shameware” for controlling behavior.  

Why is that? And why is this so often misunderstood, even by people who share our concerns about pornography?  

Covenant Eyes helps people who want to be accountable.  

Many people feel intense shame about their pornography use, both inside and outside the church. Shame comes when people live disconnected from relationships, or in a way that doesn’t match their values. Covenant Eyes exists for people who are tired of living with the shame of a secret porn habit. Our software allows them to be open and honest about their digital life, instead of feeling like they have something to hide.  

While we believe porn is bad for everyone, the solution is not surveillance or controlling behavior. Given how widespread and easy to access it is, someone can only quit watching pornography if they really want to. Wanting to change may not be enough, but it’s a minimum requirement. And Covenant Eyes was created for people who want to change.  

Control-based accountability fails.  

After more than two decades of helping people quit porn, we’re convinced the most fruitful accountability relationships are directly opposed to spying or controlling behavior. In fact, trying to control behaviors drives people back to the very behavior they’re trying to avoid.   

Many of the over one million people who have turned to us do so because the systems in place to control their pornography use failed. They feel their lives spinning out of control, and they’re looking for help. Rather than control people’s decisions, Covenant Eyes is designed to help facilitate voluntary, peer-based accountability relationships, which equip them to regain control of their own lives.  

Shame-based accountability fails.  

People often assume that the power of accountability is simply the power of shame to motivate behavior change—hence the label “shameware.” However, researchers have found that shame factors heavily in problematic pornography use.  

We’re interested in accountability as a means of real, long-term growth, not just short-term behavior modification. That’s why we’ve spent years explaining that accountability is not about shame and fear. If someone is trapped in an unwanted porn habit, shame will only drive them into deeper despair.  

Accountability software empowers life change. 

One study found that personal accountability can make you 95% more likely to achieve your goals! Here are just a few of the stories we’ve heard from people who discovered freedom from shame through accountability: 

“The deep feelings of shame and guilt I felt were so strong… What truly sets people free is accountability through relationships.” (Jacob’s Story

“I think an ally is a very necessary part of my story. I tried to conquer it [on] my own, but the only way I could have recovered is by God’s grace and [the] people he put in my life. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed. You’re still loved by a lot of people.” (Raymond’s Story

“Shame is a product of our secrets. Keeping my struggle a secret only made me feel isolated and, at times, inhuman. The longer I kept my secret, the more I believed I could never share it. The longer I kept silent, the darker and stronger my sin grew. The longer I kept silent, the more convinced I became that I would just have to live the rest of my life with this.” (Jessica’s Story

“When I was 18, I made an important step towards quitting porn – telling a friend about it. This was my first taste of real accountability, and it felt freeing.” (Josh’s Story

“Until I found Covenant Eyes, I thought I was the only one living in such shame. I’ve spent almost 15 years completely isolated, without a single person understanding me. I’m hoping that changes now.” (G’s Story

“Thanks to Covenant Eyes, I feel more happy and confident that my actions are starting to truly reflect my innermost desires to do good for others and myself.” (Anonymous) 

“Covenant Eyes gave me the accountability I wanted but did not dare or know how to ask for it. I no longer was facing this battle alone.” (Anonymous) 

“I can honestly say that Covenant Eyes has changed my life. Without Covenant Eyes, I’m not sure how many times I would enter the constant cycle of shame and try to deal with it all by myself, or not at all.” (Anonymous) 

“Covenant Eyes has not only helped me recognize the necessity of this accountability in my life but also has helped implement a structured framework that helps me to be intentional about maintaining those relationships.” (Anonymous) 

“We have been using covenant eyes going on a year now. Covenant Eyes’ impact upon my life has provided freedom from distraction and preservation of my heart through the guarding of my eyes… This is a tool that has assisted in the restoration of my marriage and provided relief where there was once hesitation and fear. Peace of mind for all of my family members.” (David) 

There are many, MANY more stories just like this. The late Dr. Mark Laaser dedicated his life to helping people overcome sex and porn addiction. He said, “To achieve true change, a person must be accountable to others to make that change.”  

Covenant Eyes exists, not as shameware or spyware, and not as a means of manipulative control. Rather, it’s a tool for empowering people to make life-changing decisions.