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TRAMES. A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences
ISSN 1736-7514 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-0922 (Print)
Impact Factor (2020): 0.5


Full article in PDF format | DOI: 10.3176/tr.2011.2.08

Valtteri Arstila, Franklin Scott

The widespread use and novel applications of brain imaging techniques seem to open the possibility of new threats to one’s privacy. Being in a situation where we cannot control what information about ourselves is available to others could restrict the jobs we can get, the business we conduct, the way we are seen by strangers, and the way we relate to our friends and family. While researchers and practitioners should be cautious about the ways they use brain imaging data, we argue that brain reading does not violate privacy in any way different from the already established psychological methods to determine mental phenomena, such as whether someone suffers from color blindness or is clinically de­pressed. For brain reading to constitute a new threat, we claim it would have to be possible to easily gather information about a subject’s mental states in accidental or malicious ways without the knowledge of the subject. Against this possibility, we note that brain imaging techniques require (i) the researchers to intentionally seek a specific type of mental state to the exclusion of information about other states, (ii) the active cooperation and participation of subjects, and (iii) a method of analysis that depends on the already established psycho­logical tests. Hence, while there should be policies that specify when brain imaging can be used and how, these policies should be treated within a broader context of privacy issues in psychology rather than as a special case.

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