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Mental Privacy
April 13, 2008 10:15 AM   Subscribe


 
i am guessing people are not posting because they assume the gov't knows their thoughts on this matter already
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


fortunately, my trusty tinfoil hat is never out of reach
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 10:44 AM on April 13, 2008


I would guess that, in the same way that you cannot be forced to submit to a lie-detector, you would not be forced to submit to a brain scan. Maybe we can breathe now.
posted by francesca too at 10:45 AM on April 13, 2008


It's not a Civil Rights battle if you have no civil rights. If they're going to argue that fingerprints aren't private, then if they build a machine that receives thoughts you "broadcast" then it's not infringement is it? Just stop having those thoughts and you'll be fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:46 AM on April 13, 2008


fortunately, my trusty tinfoil hat is never out of reach

You fool! They want you to wear it!
posted by homunculus at 10:49 AM on April 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


New neurotechnology soon may be able to detect a person who is particularly nervous, in possession of guilty knowledge or, in the more distant future, to detect a person thinking, "Only one hour until the bomb explodes."

"Only 10 minutes before the liquor store closes."

*Pegs meter on government monitoring device. Terror threat level flaming red. Agents called to immediately apprehend.*
posted by three blind mice at 10:53 AM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


francesca: Did you read either of the articles? Just curious, because the Wired article, for example, is also about the ability to *create* intrusive thoughts via hypersonic advertisement. Also some of the sticker implication of the memory-killer drug propranolol, and the overall thesis isn't one of the breathlessness you seem to project on it, but rather pointing out that this stuff is happening so fast, and so under the radar, that it could be up and running before anyone really has time to even *contemplate* how they might complicate or erode civil rights.

Hell, even the WaPo article discusses mainly remote and passive brain scanning, et al, which is a whole different critter than strapping someone into an MRI machine in some kind of souped-up lie detector.

Reading is HARD.
posted by absalom at 10:57 AM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know, I would have assumed that there would be an office at DARPA. A little office, off in a corner, but with a very important function. Anytime DARPA comes up with something new, they have to run it by this office, which has a sole purpose: if new technology has at least a 75% chance to be used for cartoonish supervillainy, the office terminates the research.

Apparently I was wrong.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:59 AM on April 13, 2008 [12 favorites]


So! Hey! Where can I experience this hypersonic sound marketing happy fun times in the Massachusetts area?
posted by lizzicide at 11:02 AM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


That office exists, only it fastracks that stuff.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:04 AM on April 13, 2008


Pope Guilty: You're close. That office is actually a liaison to Congress. The only part you got wrong is that, when such a technology is discovered, it is that man's job to lobby for increased funding for it.
posted by absalom at 11:07 AM on April 13, 2008


the ability to *create* intrusive thoughts via hypersonic advertisement

I've heard of this tech before, but it doesn't sound like creating "thoughts" to me. Stereo sound, were you unaware of the headphones, would seem like it was coming from inside your head. There's a difference between being unable to identify the source of a sound and it being TRANSMITTED THOUGHT. Isn't the interesting bit of this tech being the narrowcast aspect?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:07 AM on April 13, 2008


If they're going to argue that fingerprints aren't private, then if they build a machine that receives thoughts you "broadcast" then it's not infringement is it?

I'm curious. Do you really feel that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the smudges you leave all over the world? That just seems like an odd view to me.

Brain scanning could turn out to be a valuable exculpatory tool as well, much like DNA testing has been. Assuming it actually works (and I realize this is a big assumption), bringing more accuracy to criminal fact finding can only be a good thing, right?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:17 AM on April 13, 2008


<> You can't handle my mind!<>

On second thought, go ahead and take it; it only gets me into trouble.

Seriously, though, if there are enough "rightful thinking" people willing to put programs like this into place (against their own friends and neighbors), we're all fucked in the long run. Civil rights are sooooo last century.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:32 AM on April 13, 2008


I have just put in an application to have all my thoughts copyrighted. No one can duplicate them or read them without my express permission.
posted by Avelwood at 11:36 AM on April 13, 2008


Do you really feel that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the smudges you leave all over the world?

Yep. It's something called innocent 'till proven guilty.

Brain scanning could turn out to be a valuable exculpatory tool as well

Yes, yes and a gun could be used for hunting meat or killing a person in cold blood. It all depends on the person or government holding the gun, and people are leery of what government would do with this type of power.

on preview:

I have just put in an application to have all my thoughts copyrighted.

I put one in this morning to have your thoughts copyrighted too. Credit or debit?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:38 AM on April 13, 2008


Combine a device that lets the government know what you're thinking right now (see the OP) with a device that knows everything you've ever done and the government pretty well everything about you. Creepy.
posted by Leon-arto at 11:44 AM on April 13, 2008


Do you really feel that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the smudges you leave all over the world?
Yep. It's something called innocent 'till proven guilty.


I don't understand this remark. The presumption of innocence simply means that burden of proof in a criminal trial rests with the state. The police may obviously investigate someone before they've been convicted.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:47 AM on April 13, 2008


if new technology has at least a 75% chance to be used for cartoonish supervillainy, the office terminates the research.

That sounds like a good idea. Sadly, theres a factory here in Texas (located in a critical congressional district) that specializes in high-quality American-made sharks with lasers on their heads. We can't afford to loose those jobs in an election year.

Don't even get me started on the Doomsday Device industry.
posted by Avenger at 11:58 AM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I put one in this morning to have your thoughts copyrighted too. Credit or debit?

Yeah, laugh about it now. That's an order, citizen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:02 PM on April 13, 2008


The police may obviously investigate someone before they've been convicted.

Yes, but generally they have to suspect someone of something. Just going around collecting fingerprints, because you know, they're there, doesn't happen. Typically a crime needs to occur before fingerprints start being collected.

If you're saying that simply by leaving fingerprints in the world, the government can therefore collect them, even though a crime hasn't occurred, then we disagree.

If you're saying that simply by leaving fingerprints in the worlds, the government can therefore collect them after a crime has occurred and collecting fingerprints from that specific crime scene would (obviously) help the investigation , then we're closer to agreeing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:11 PM on April 13, 2008


If you're saying that simply by leaving fingerprints in the worlds, the government can therefore collect them after a crime has occurred and collecting fingerprints from that specific crime scene would (obviously) help the investigation , then we're closer to agreeing.

Why does the collection have to occur from the "specific crime scene," whatever that means? I agree that the government shouldn't wander around collecting fingerprints just for the fuck of it, because it's a total waste of time.

However, I see no problem with collecting fingerprints from, say, a beverage can thrown away by a suspect, and trying to match those prints with prints collected elsewhere. People simply don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to the smudges they put on their garbage.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:19 PM on April 13, 2008


I've had mine removed. Those sonsabitches can't touch me now.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:21 PM on April 13, 2008


As far as I've dabbled with EEG, it always requires lots of repetition per individual subject to separate the intended phenomenon from other activity. If you want to detect that now this person is happy and now this person is sad, you'll need some 50 trials for both situations and then you began to have enough data to find detectable features of those emotions. Much like with lie detectors, you need to have a baseline to find some meaningful changes and for most of the interesting things that baseline is different for each individual. You cannot measure both baseline and significant odd activity from people simultaneously. Advances in brain scan systems do not change the statistic nature of interpreting the data. One snapshot or some ten second segment is irrecovably too complicated and unique for mining any more spesific information out of it, you'll be needing several snapshots in as identical situations as possible to even recognize what it is that you should be looking for.
posted by Free word order! at 12:24 PM on April 13, 2008


Hmmm... this post seems to conflate two very different forms of technology.

As Durn Bronzefist says, this hypersonic shit is narrowcast sound. Annoying? Yes. Invasive? Yes. But not really anything to do with marketeers taking over your mind and creating thoughts. Well, not anymore so than a broadcast radio jingle.

As for the second post, rMRI is along way from mind reading. Knowing another's mind is fucking difficult. rMRI scans monitor brain activity. Ie if a particular area of the cortex has increased blood flow, then this would show up on the scan. It could be established that a particular area that is associated with certain thoughts (lets say racism) so blood flow in that loci might occur in test subject who is show an image supposed to stimulate racism (when the gov't is screening for racists, lets say). But so what? Who is to say what context the thoughts occur in. Perhaps the subject could be thinking of how deplorable a racist response to the image would be; the rRNA scan would not be able to make this distinction.

Thoughts are complex. Its probably impossible to project them in their entirety. So you should be alright you fucking pervert.
posted by verisimilitude at 12:45 PM on April 13, 2008


francesca: Did you read either of the articles? Just curious, because the Wired article, for example, is also about the ability to *create* intrusive thoughts via hypersonic advertisement.

You can't "create thoughts" with those things, its just that you can't tell where the sound is coming from.
posted by delmoi at 12:47 PM on April 13, 2008


MRI, obviously.
posted by verisimilitude at 12:50 PM on April 13, 2008


I believe that this is the work that's referred to in the first link.

Which is interesting, but it seems like it would not be worth very much in a surveillance security context. Maybe if there were some extreme activity, but remote scans of more easily detected physical states like heart rate or breathing patterns would be just as effective and easier to obtain. You'd have to have a lot more time and information to actually "read" someone's thoughts (on preview, what Free Word Order articulated much better than I.)
posted by louche mustachio at 12:51 PM on April 13, 2008


Ie if a particular area of cortex has increased blood flow, then this would show up on the scan.

I don't want to be exposed to areas of cortex with increased blood flow.

not cortex-ist
posted by chimaera at 1:14 PM on April 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm less scared of any given tech than how far my neighbours will go to preserve their own rapidly unraveling peace of mind. If they don't have an MRI, that's ok. Pitchforks will do just fine.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:23 PM on April 13, 2008



You can't "create thoughts" with those things, its just that you can't tell where the sound is coming from.

Subliminal hypersonic seductions.
posted by psyche7 at 2:21 PM on April 13, 2008


Tin foil hats are old tech. Electrified hairnets are where it's at. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:44 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


francesca: Did you read either of the articles?
Yes I did read the articles: I should have said "Maybe I can breath now". The way I figure it, I'll retire in a couple of years, I'll be dead five years after that ( going by family history).
Apres moi, le deluge. I'll let the rest of you worry about mind reading and bending.
posted by francesca too at 3:39 PM on April 13, 2008


I know it's not the main focus of the (second) article, but the "propranolol as memory eraser" urban legend being trotted out as fact yet again in a major publication really irritates me. Propranolol is a beta blocker prescribed for high blood pressure and occasionally for anxiety disorders. It basically short-circuits some of your body's stress responses. There have been a few small studies that suggest that treatement with propranolol can help blunt the long-term emotional effects associated with a traumatic event. Nowhere in any of these studies is any evidence at all that propranolol causes you to forget anything, simply that it might blunt the emotional intensity associated with some memories.

"The results suggest drugs may be able to prevent traumatic memories from being stored with such disturbing intensity in the first place, or perhaps deaden effects of old memories if taken shortly after they have been reawakened. "

I take the stuff pretty regularly, and it has no effect on what I remember, nor does it turn me into an emotionless zombie. It's pretty harmless stuff, and it's a shame to see the media twist the results of a few interesting studies into "OMG IT KILLS UR MEMORIES BAN IT!"

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now...

...just as soon as I remember where I put my car keys.
posted by Wroughtirony at 3:54 PM on April 13, 2008


I put one in this morning to have your thoughts copyrighted too. Credit or debit?

Credit. You're going to have to pay me if you quote anything more.


MRI, obviously.

Right, because a 5 tesla scanner is soooo easy to carry around, maintain, and virtually anyone with any small bits of metal (belt buckles, dental fillings, piercings, etc.) anywhere near them can go near it in absolute safety. That sounds like a real secure plan.
posted by Avelwood at 4:17 PM on April 13, 2008


What, no 'batshitinsane' tag? This gets rehashed every now and then, whenever there's a perceived need by governments to up the 'They're Among Us!' quotient. Reading and interpreting brain activity is a long, long way from reading thoughts a-la telepathy. And that interpretation is another subjective process vulnerable to an array of legal defences, so unless the competency of your average LEO goes way up, I think your seditious fantasies are safe.

If you look at the armies of skeletons in the closets of all sides of political life, chances are none of them want their thoughts read. Imagine if someone walked through Capitol Hill with that thing set to 'detect gay'.

Interesting point about memories being societal property. There also seems to be some confusion among various posters in this thread about whether thoughts are 'broadcast' and picked up (in which case they are much like fingerprints), or more actively scanned and copied from your mind (more akin to a blood sample). This distinction will have legal ramifcations; to me it seems the latter is what's happening here, but that'll come out in the dev stage.

So the WaPol links Tom Cruise's name, but leaves out Phillip K. Dick? Dick-ist much?
posted by cosmonik at 5:48 PM on April 13, 2008


This Mefi post is brought to you by Lightspeed Briefs.
posted by Talez at 5:57 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


People simply don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to the smudges they put on their garbage.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:19 PM on April 13


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:02 PM on April 13, 2008


Ah, quoting the Constitution to MPSDEA. How quaint.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:21 PM on April 13, 2008


Better MPSDEA than MPDSEA!
posted by cosmonik at 7:53 PM on April 13, 2008


What a coincidence, the LAST civil rights battle will be over mind control.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:56 PM on April 13, 2008


The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics
posted by sponge at 9:50 PM on April 13, 2008


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

And if your garbage was protected by the Bill of Rights, that would be relevant.
posted by Snyder at 10:43 PM on April 13, 2008


And if your garbage was protected by the Bill of Rights, that would be relevant.

What do you mean? A fingerprint on a piece of garbage is my person...

Wait, it's my house...

Wait, it's my papers...

Wait, it's my effects...

Wait... shoot.
posted by Leon-arto at 11:01 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


And if your garbage was protected by the Bill of Rights, that would be relevant.

Your garbage is protected if it's on your (private) property. If it is on public property, e.g. out on the street waiting for trash pickup, then it's not protected.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:51 PM on April 13, 2008


Brandon Blatcher,
It seems like you're not really thinking this through. You touch dozens, maybe hundreds of things everyday, from doorknobs to cans to chairs, etc. You leave fingerprints literally everywhere, all the time, unless you're constantly wearing gloves when outside of your house. You have no expectation, and no right to, privacy for these prints you leave everywhere. I could pick your prints up off of a door you just used. That would be perfectly legal. A cop could also do this. The cops could literally walk around picking up prints from every public object everywhere. They don't because, as Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America notes, it would be a total waste of time and effort.

It's similar in principle to the idea that you can be photographed when in a public place, either by the police or by individuals. You have no expectation or right to privacy, quite logically, to things you do or leave in public. It would be akin to arguing that a cop couldn't pick up one of the countless strands of hair that fall from your head every day as you walk around. If you're really that concerned, just wear gloves (and, I guess, a surgical cap) all the time when outside of your home.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:06 AM on April 14, 2008


It's similar in principle to the idea that you can be photographed when in a public place, either by the police or by individuals.

Hey, that's a good analogy, thanks. Never liked that policy, but it's been vetted legally, so there you go.

However, that line of thought still leads to the government arguing that you have legal right to your own private thoughts or pretty much any privacy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:13 AM on April 14, 2008


What do you mean? A fingerprint on a piece of garbage is my person...

Wait, it's my house...

Wait, it's my papers...

Wait, it's my effects...

Wait... shoot.
posted by Leon-arto at 2:01 AM on April 14


Surely the thoughts in your head are your person. Come on.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:33 AM on April 14, 2008


Here is a link to the paper about remote EEGs (pdf). It is pretty interesting, but it doesn't come anywhere near the breathless reporting in the Washington Post story.
posted by afu at 4:00 AM on April 14, 2008


Say what you want, but if I was subjected to that hypersonic doohickey on the street for any purpose at all, let along advertising, I would be VERY ANGRY. This is a good post, and that was a good article.
posted by JHarris at 9:51 AM on April 14, 2008


if new technology has at least a 75% chance to be used for cartoonish supervillainy

Meh, as it stands this is has at best a 60% CSV index, but once it gets weaponized, and applied to nanotechnologically enhanced spider-monkeys, who can drop out of trees, and cling to your head whilst reading your brain, then you start breaking that 75% supervillain rate. Add in the ability to explode when they find something the government needs to worry about and you have hit the evil-genius holy trifecta; nanotech, mind-control, and exploding monkeys.

That's the kind of shit you have to bring in a double-0 secret agent to fight.
posted by quin at 10:22 AM on April 14, 2008




Not sure how anyone missed this, but the main issue is false positives.

If the police identify a suspect by scanning a DNA or finger print database of enough people, that evedence isn't worth all that much, or shouldn't be. Such evidence is basically "circumstantial". It may help the police focus on the real culprit, but even the prosecution should be required to refer to database search evidence as "circumstantial", if they are even allowed to use it. Otoh, if someone is killed, but DNA evidence exists, then it seems natural to compare scene DNA with close family members and business associates.

To me, these issues seem pretty similar. No one wants our government tailing everyone who reads Marx. But we're quite happy if they identify young males who are attached to a gang or mosque preaching violence. Indeed that is the essence of police work, narrow down the suspects by knowing the pool. If your list starts short, then evidence is less circumstantial.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:08 PM on April 14, 2008


Neurowarfare and the law
posted by homunculus at 11:39 AM on April 16, 2008


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