New human rights laws to prepare for rapid current advances in neurotechnology that may put “freedom of mind” at risk have been proposed in the open access journal Life Sciences, Society and Policy.
Four new human rights laws could emerge in the near future to protect against exploitation and loss of privacy, the authors of the study suggest: The right to cognitive liberty, the right to mental privacy, the right to mental integrity, and the right to psychological continuity.
Advances in neural engineering, brain imaging, and neurotechnology put freedom of the mind at risk, says Marcello Ienca, lead author and PhD student at the Institute for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Basel. “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.”
Sophisticated brain imaging and the development of brain-computer interfaces have moved away from a clinical setting into the consumer domain. There’s a risk that the technology could be misused and create unprecedented threats to personal freedom. For example:
- Uses in criminal court as a tool for assessing criminal responsibility or even the risk of re-offending.
- Consumer companies using brain imaging for “neuromarketing” to understand consumer behavior and elicit desired responses from customers.
- “Brain decoders” that can turn a person’s brain imaging data into images, text or sound.
- Hacking, allowing a third-party to eavesdrop on someone’s mind.
International human rights laws currently make no specific mention of neuroscience. But as with the genetic revolution, the on-going neurorevolution will require consideration of human-rights laws and even the creation of new ones, the authors suggest.