Mental privacy in the age of neurotechnology

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Bothoff, Shannon Brenda
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Recently, it has been argued that the current international human rights framework is inadequate to address the risks posed by neurotechnology. Within this debate, it is suggested that we need a new human right to mental privacy. But do we really need it? Or are existing human rights, such as the right to freedom of thought, flexible enough to provide adequate protection? We are entering the era of neurotechnology, and more specifically of Brain-Computer-Interfaces (BCIs), which is a technology that connects people's brains directly to machines, such as computers and mobile phones. This has enormous consequences, for the brain is not just an organ. It is the organ that generates all our mental and cognitive activity; it touches the core of our being. This thesis examines to what extent the right to freedom of thought in the European context offers protection against the potential risks posed by BCIs to mental privacy. To this end, a legal doctrinal study was conducted. This thesis will argue that the right to freedom of thought is flexible enough to protect mental privacy. This fits within the “living-instrument doctrine”. Interpreting the law in the light of present-day conditions is daily practice in the world of law. This thesis therefore concludes that a new human right to mental privacy is not necessary.
Second semester University: Uppsala University
privacy, technological innovations, freedom of thought