New advances in neuro-technology could put the 'freedom of the mind' at risk, according to researchers
Future 'mind reading' technology could allow hackers to steal or even delete data from our brains, unless new human rights laws are prepared to protect against exploitation and loss of privacy, researchers have warned.
New advances in neuro-technology could put the 'freedom of the mind' at risk, and to prevent this, researchers suggest four new laws - right to cognitive liberty, right to mental privacy, right to mental integrity and the right to psychological continuity.
"The mind is considered to be the last refuge of personal freedom and self-determination, but advances in neural engineering, brain imaging and neuro-technology put the freedom of the mind at risk," said Marcello Ienca, PhD student at the University of Basel in Switzerland.
"Our proposed laws would give people the right to refuse coercive and invasive neurotechnology, protect the privacy of data collected by neurotechnology, and protect the physical and psychological aspects of the mind from damage by the misuse of neurotechnology," said Ienca.
Advances in neurotechnology, such as sophisticated brain imaging and the development of brain-computer interfaces, have led to these technologies moving away from a clinical setting and into the consumer domain.
While these advances may be beneficial for individuals and society, there is a risk that the technology could be misused and create unprecedented threats to personal freedom.
"Brain imaging technology has already reached a point where there is discussion over its legitimacy in criminal court, for example as a tool for assessing criminal responsibility or even the risk of re-offending," said Roberto Andorno,
"Consumer companies are using brain imaging for 'neuromarketing', to understand consumer behaviour and elicit desired responses from customers," said Andorno.
"There are also tools such as 'brain decoders' which can turn brain imaging data into images, text or sound," he said.
"All of these could pose a threat to personal freedom which we sought to address with the development of four new human rights laws," he added.
As neuro-technology improves and becomes commonplace, there is a risk that the technology could be hacked, allowing a third-party to 'eavesdrop' on someone's mind.
In the future, a brain-computer interface used to control consumer technology could put the user at risk of physical and psychological damage caused by a third-party attack on the technology.
There are also ethical and legal concerns over the protection of data generated by these devices that need to be considered.
International human rights laws make no specific mention to neuroscience, although advances in biomedicine have become intertwined with laws, such as those concerning human genetic data.
Similar to the historical trajectory of the genetic revolution, the researchers said that the on-going neurorevolution will force a reconceptualisation of human rights laws and even the creation of new ones.
The study was published in the journal Life Sciences, Society and Policy.