“Your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer.”
A Vox report that swiftly sparked alarm across the internet Friday outlined how, “in the era of neurocapitalism, your brain needs new rights,” following recent revelations that Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink are developing technologies to read people’s minds.
As Vox‘s Sigal Samuel reported:
Mark Zuckerberg’s company is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words. The researchers say they’ve already built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.
And Musk’s company has created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts. Musk wants to start testing in humans by the end of next year.
Considering those and other companies’ advances and ambitions, Samuel warned that “your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer” and laid out how existing laws are not equipped to handle how these emerging technologies could “interfere with rights that are so basic that we may not even think of them as rights, like our ability to determine where our selves end and machines begin.”
Samuel interviewed neuroethicist Marcello Ienca, a researcher at ETH Zurich who published a paper in 2017 detailing four human rights for the neurotechnology age that he believes need to be protected by law. Ienca told Samuel, “I’m very concerned about the commercialization of brain data in the consumer market.”
“And I’m not talking about a farfetched future. We already have consumer neurotech, with people trading their brain data for services from private companies,” he said, pointing to video games that use brain activity and wearable devices that monitor human activities such as sleep. “I’m tempted to call it neurocapitalism.”
The Vox report broke down the four rights that, according to Ienca, policymakers need to urgently safeguard with new legislation:
- The right to cognitive liberty: You should have the right to freely decide you want to use a given neurotechnology or to refuse it.
- The right to mental privacy: You should have the right to seclude your brain data or to publicly share it.
- The right to mental integrity: You should have the right not to be harmed physically or psychologically by neurotechnology.
- The right to psychological continuity: You should have the right to be protected from alterations to your sense of self that you did not authorize.
“Brain data is the ultimate refuge of privacy. When that goes, everything goes,” Ienca said. “And once brain data is collected on a large scale, it’s going to be very hard to reverse the process.”
Tech reporter Benjamin Powers tweeted, “So how long until this is co-opted for national security purposes?”
Ienca, in his interview with Samuel, noted that the Defense Department’s advanced research agency is assessing how neurotechnologies could be used on soldiers. As he explained, “there is already military-funded research to see if we can monitor decreases in attention levels and concentration, with hybrid BCIs that can ‘read’ deficits in attention levels and ‘write’ to the brain to increase alertness through neuromodulation. There are DARPA-funded projects that attempt to do so.”
Such technologies raise concerns about abuse not only by governments but also by corporations.
Journalist Noah Kulwin compared brain-reading tech to self-driving cars, suggesting that the former “can’t possibly work as presently marketed,” and given that governments aren’t prepared with human rights protections, companies will be empowered to “do a bunch of unregulated experimentation.”
Neuralink Corporation is a elusive American neurotechnology company that was founded by Elon Musk and a couple of others, developing implantable brain-machine interfaces (BMIs).
Neuralink claims its goal is to eventually begin implanting devices in paralyzed humans, allowing them to control phones or computers.
However, if this technology fell into the wrong hands, it could be used for more evil and sinister purposes. There are several concerning questions about this device, for starters, who owns your brain data?
For example, would Neuralink have access to your brain waves and any information that makes these your unique waves, if you are utilizing their neurological device? Could they sell that data to third parties? Is there any way to make sure your data stays private or local or would all of these devices need to connect to a cloud server?
Another question to consider is if you had the implant installed, what precautions would be taken to ensure the brain implant wouldn’t be hacked by outside forces? Would we be subjected to ads we can’t turn off?
These questions raise fundamental concerns about your private thoughts and if that would that lead to government intervention to protect your privacy rights and keep this technology from being abused we’re in a lot of trouble.
Democrat Tom Wheeler, former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, says the potential for billions of dollars in profit to US telecom corporations justifies rolling out 5G technology without testing or even discussing the possibility that it could cause psychological disorders and cancer. He really says that – and much more you will not like. Prior to being appointed by President Obama, Wheeler worked as a venture capitalist and lobbyist for the cable and wireless industry, holding positions including president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. As is customary for FCC chairmen, he resigned when President Trump’s administration began. -GEG
OF NOTE: In late April 2014, the contours of a document leaked that indicated that the FCC under Wheeler would consider announcing rules that would violate net neutrality principles by making it easier for companies to pay ISPs (including cable companies and wireless ISPs) to provide faster “lanes” for delivering their content to Internet users. These plans received substantial backlash from activists, the mainstream press, and some other FCC commissioners. In May 2014, over 100 Internet companies—including Google, Microsoft, eBay, and Facebook—signed a letter to Wheeler voicing their disagreement with his plans, saying they represented a “grave threat to the Internet”. As of May 15, 2014, the “Internet fast lane” rules passed with a 3–2 vote. They were then open to public discussion that ended July 2014.
In November 2014, President Obama gave a speech endorsing the classification of ISPs as utilities under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Wheeler stated in January 2015 that the FCC was “going to propose rules that say no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization” at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. On January 31, 2015, the Associated Press reported the FCC will present the notion of applying (“with some caveats”) Title II (common carrier) of the Communications Act of 1934 to the Internet in a vote expected on February 26, 2015. Adoption of this notion would reclassify Internet service from one of information to one of telecommunications and, according to Wheeler, ensure US net neutrality.
On March 12, 2015, the FCC released the specific details of the net neutrality rules. On April 13, 2015, the FCC published the final rule on its new “Net Neutrality” regulations.
Critics said that Wheeler was unduly influenced by Obama in changing his stance on net neutrality. In addition, journalists and advocates have expressed concern regarding the potential for inappropriate involvement by the White House over rule making at the FCC, which is supposed to be an independent agency. During a House Oversight Committee hearing in March 2015, Republicans disclosed that Wheeler had secretly met with top aides at the White House nine times while the new rules were being formulated.
Elizabeth Warren Democratic US Senator & BAR member – Warren announced her candidacy in the 2020 United States presidential election. Warren was instrumental in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, of which she served as the first Special Advisor under President Obama.
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