Privacy and ethics in brain-computer interface research

In Eran Klein & Alan Rubel (eds.), Brain–Computer Interfaces Handbook: Technological and Theoretical Advances. pp. 653-655 (2018)
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Neural engineers and clinicians are starting to translate advances in electrodes, neural computation, and signal processing into clinically useful devices to allow control of wheelchairs, spellers, prostheses, and other devices. In the process, large amounts of brain data are being generated from participants, including intracortical, subdural and extracranial sources. Brain data is a vital resource for BCI research but there are concerns about whether the collection and use of this data generates risk to privacy. Further, the nature of BCI research involves understanding and making inferences about device users’ mental states, thoughts, and intentions. This, too, raises privacy concerns by providing otherwise unavailable direct or privileged access to individuals mental lives. And BCI-controlled prostheses may change the way clinical care is provided and the type of physical access caregivers have to patients. This, too, has important privacy implications. I In this chapter we examine several of these privacy concerns in light of prominent views of the nature and value of privacy. We argue that increased scrutiny needs to be paid to privacy concerns arising from Big Data and decoding of mental states, but that BCI research may also provide opportunity for individuals to enhance their privacy.



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Alan Rubel
University of Wisconsin, Madison

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