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Picking Your Brain (23 Oct 2004)
A key issue is the implications of these technologies for personal privacy. If there are eventually technologies that externalize internal states, who has a right to access that information? And what about cases where that information could be taken against peopleís will, or without their knowledge? Are we going to start implanting electrodes in the brains of the suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay? Certainly not yet-thereís nothing we could get out of that. But research is being funded by the Departments of Homeland Security and of Defense for things like lie detection technologies using functional MRI or near-infrared light. These technologies can be used coercively in a way polygraphs, for example, canít. If youíre not willing to cooperate with a polygraph, thereís really nothing they can do. But you arenít necessarily going to need to cooperate for some of these technologies; they can, theoretically, be used covertly. They may be used on suspected criminals or enemies of the state, or on you and me when weíre going through airports. Near-infrared technology may someday employ an undetectable spot of light on your forehead. Research on ways to take what used to be private thoughts and make them accessible will challenge our laws and our thinking about what privacy means.
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