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We Talk Tech

Eleven Hundred Agency

ICO weighs up neurotech future

By Sarah Hankins

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) –UK’s data protection regulator – recently released its first ever report on neurotechnology. But what may look like the beckoning of a dystopian era, might also be an exciting step in the future of greater automated personalisation.

What is neurotechnology?

Neurotechnology and its close accomplice neurodata have no universally recognised definitions. For neurodata, we might follow UNESCO International Bioethics Committee’s understanding that it is another way of saying personal brain data. Likewise, neurotechnology loosely refers to technology designed to access, investigate and maybe even replicate neural data for a variety of different outcomes.

While it is easy to be spooked by ideas of technologies that can manipulate our neural systems, the present-day reality is that these technologies will likely focus on developing new treatments for neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s. Certainly, there is no immediate chance of brain waves being used to inform marketing campaigns!

Looking to the future

So, what does the release of this report mean?

Well, for the average person not much. For those with an interest in this field of technology, it represents solid proof that organisations with responsibilities over security and privacy are taking neuro-innovations seriously. Indeed, the report closes with reassurances that those in the field appreciate more work is needed to enact appropriate regulatory policies and are committed to gathering critical input from stakeholders.

Set on building a foundation for long-term success, the ICO has also invited those with experience and expertise – be it commercial or academic – to reach out and provide input on concerns and best practice. This is a sign of good intention, especially when you consider how early in this technological evolution we are. Certainly, the far-reaching impacts of neurotechnology for anything outside the health sector have only just graced the proverbial horizon.

For now, we can all rest easy knowing that no Charles Xavier-esque technology is coming to disrupt our lives anytime soon. But it might be worth keeping an eye out for the inevitable innovations. As with any new technology, reality-altering changes often happen almost overnight.