As technology and our ability to interpret fMRI data increases, so will the need for laws that protect the “domain of privacy” in our skulls. Neuroethicist Paul Root Wolpe expresses his concerns about the future of cognitive privacy.
With more opportunities to track brain activity comes more opportunities to mine that data. That’s not necessarily a bad thing outright, but it raises some privacy concerns: who owns brain data? fMRIs are already starting to get used as lie detectors, and it’s not unreasonable to expect police and other actors to use cognitive data in the future to gauge whether someone is innocent or guilty. It’s time to talk about how much control we should have over what’s in our brains.
At the World Science Festival, neuroethicist Paul Roote Wolp stressed how important it is right now to set up ground rules to protect cognitive privacy. Wolp believes that people should have absolute control over the information in our skulls, even with warrants for the contents of our brainwaves.
“I’m for an absolute right to cognitive privacy,” he says. “What does the right to privacy mean if it doesn’t mean the absolute right to the content of my own thoughts?”
It’s the early days, but technology that uses brainwaves is well on its way to becoming mainstream. Samsung has been prepping a mind-controlled tabletinterface that uses an EEG hood since 2013, and there’s already a slew of devices that use neural-monitoring technology, from Emotiv’s high-tech research EEG headsets to Necomimi Brainwave Cat Ears.