Companies are coming for your brains. The electricity in your brains, to be more precise. Valve, Facebook, Elon Musk and more are funding research into technologies that will translate neural signals into controls for devices like computers, smartphones, and VR/AR environments. While this would be super exciting, it represents some serious data privacy issues. First: what kind of private information can be elicited from your neural signals? It’s possible to use a specific kind of neural response to visual and audio stimuli to deduce information about the user… like where you bank, who you know, your real identity, etc (Edward Nygma in Batman Forever, anyone?)
More broadly, there is also the issue of what happens when you provide your neural signals to a company. If you’re worried about what Facebook is doing with your information now, imagine what they can do when they have hours of information straight from your brain. If neural data is treated the same as your DNA, commercial companies become the owners of your thoughts (as electrical signals). Will they readily share it with the FBI without probable cause? These kinds of questions, and many more, are starting to surface with neurally-controlled devices and other emerging technologies. This talk will cover all of this and more.
Dr Katherine Pratt received her B.S. in aerospace engineering from MIT in 2008, and her PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) from the University of Washington (UW) in 2019. During undergrad she completed several internships with the private space venture Blue Origin, working in systems and propulsion engineering. She has served four years in the United States Air Force, working primarily as an operational flight test engineer on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Her doctoral dissertation focused on the privacy, ethics, and policy of information derived from elicited neural signals. She was the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and the 2018-19 UW ECE Irene Peden Endowed Fellowship. During graduate school she interned with the ACLU of Washington through the Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. She also completed a six month fellowship as the first Congressional Innovation Scholar through Tech Congress where she crafted technology policy and legislation in the office of a member of the House of Representatives.