Privacy and Ethics in Brain-Computer Interface Research

Eran Klein, Alan Rubel Rubel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


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 research participants, including intracortical, subdural, and extracranial sources. Brain data are a vital resource for brain-computer interface (BCI) research but concerns have been raised about whether the collection and use of these data generate 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 in which clinical care is provided and the type of physical access caregivers have to patients. This, too, has important privacy implications for patients and caregivers. Our goal in this chapter is to 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBrain-Computer Interfaces Handbook
Subtitle of host publicationTechnological and Theoretical Advances
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781351231947
ISBN (Print)9780367375454
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • General Medicine
  • General Engineering


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