From cloud privacy to IoT privacy, we worry about data protection in relation to our use of tech. How about personal information in our brain? Can we continue to enjoy brain privacy?
Araceli Camargo is a cognitive neuroscientist, working on perception, specifically attention and memory. We talked to her about the privacy of what is going on in our heads, in other words about brain privacy.
Are we getting close to ‘mind-reading’?
No, we are not getting remotely close to mind-reading. There are three main elements we have discovered of the brain; it is electrical, chemical, and brain matter. Thoughts are arguably a composition of all of those elements, so an electrical pulse doesn’t equate to being able to read thoughts. Also, there is the argument mobile EEG’s, which are used for this, still lack technology advance for accurate reading of brain activity, especially given that the brain is known for being quite noisy. This “noise” is indicating that it can fire spontaneously with no correlation to stimuli.
Any information about an individual we can already obtain from monitoring brain activity with the technology currently available?
Monitoring brain activity has existed for over 20 years in the field of neuroscience, starting with the FMRI machine. Each machine looks at different aspects of the brain, some look at brain cell communication, some architecture, and other look at the circuits and networking of the brain. What is important to note is that they look at brain function rather than “person function”, so does not let you know anything micro about a person. For instance, it can tell you weather you have epilepsy but not what your favourite colour is.
Is neuroscience sufficiently aware of privacy risks pertaining to technological development?
This is not something that would be often discussed. Some of neurotech devices are not classified as medical devices, therefore do not have to go through the rigour that medical devices go through.