Civil Liberties

Technology May Detect our Lies, And Read Our Minds

And won't that suck


I recently wrote about how difficult it is to know which technologies on the horizon will turn into genuine privacy nightmares and which remain menacing but distant threats. One group of technologies that we've had our eyes on for a while are those that purport to read minds. On Sunday the Washington Post ran an article on a Maryland case where a murder defendant is trying to introduce fMRI "lie detector" evidence in his defense. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) allows researchers to look at neural activity in real-time by using powerful magnets to trace blood-flow changes in the brain.

Meanwhile, as CBS Seattle first reported, some scientists are claiming they can "hack" information out of a subject's brain, and engage in lie detection, by using a simple "brain computer interface"—biofeedback brain-wave readers that are increasingly used to control computers and are available off the shelf for only $300. According to the scientists, a "guilty knowledge test" based on a particular brain wave, the P300, "has a promising use within interrogation protocols that enable detection of potential criminal details held by the suspect."