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Report sounds alarm over brain-reading technology and neurocapitalism

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“Your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer.”

Vox report that swiftly sparked alarm across the internet Friday outlined how, “in the era of neurocapitalism, your brain needs new rights,” following recent revelations that Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink are developing technologies to read people’s minds.

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As Vox‘s Sigal Samuel reported:

Mark Zuckerberg’s company is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words. The researchers say they’ve already built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.

And Musk’s company has created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts. Musk wants to start testing in humans by the end of next year.

Considering those and other companies’ advances and ambitions, Samuel warned that “your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer” and laid out how existing laws are not equipped to handle how these emerging technologies could “interfere with rights that are so basic that we may not even think of them as rights, like our ability to determine where our selves end and machines begin.”

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Samuel interviewed neuroethicist Marcello Ienca, a researcher at ETH Zurich who published a paper in 2017 detailing four human rights for the neurotechnology age that he believes need to be protected by law. Ienca told Samuel, “I’m very concerned about the commercialization of brain data in the consumer market.”

“And I’m not talking about a farfetched future. We already have consumer neurotech, with people trading their brain data for services from private companies,” he said, pointing to video gamesthat use brain activity and wearable devices that monitor human activities such as sleep. “I’m tempted to call it neurocapitalism.”

The Vox report broke down the four rights that, according to Ienca, policymakers need to urgently safeguard with new legislation:

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  1. The right to cognitive liberty: You should have the right to freely decide you want to use a given neurotechnology or to refuse it.
  2. The right to mental privacy: You should have the right to seclude your brain data or to publicly share it.
  3. The right to mental integrity: You should have the right not to be harmed physically or psychologically by neurotechnology.
  4. The right to psychological continuity: You should have the right to be protected from alterations to your sense of self that you did not authorize.

“Brain data is the ultimate refuge of privacy. When that goes, everything goes,” Ienca said. “And once brain data is collected on a large scale, it’s going to be very hard to reverse the process.”

Samuel’s report generated concerned commentary on Twitter, with readers calling the piece “the scariest thing you’ll read all day” and declaring, “I do not want to live in this future.”

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Tech reporter Benjamin Powers tweeted, “So how long until this is co-opted for national security purposes?”

Ienca, in his interview with Samuel, noted that the Defense Department’s advanced research agency is assessing how neurotechnologies could be used on soldiers. As he explained, “there is already military-funded research to see if we can monitor decreases in attention levels and concentration, with hybrid BCIs that can ‘read’ deficits in attention levels and ‘write’ to the brain to increase alertness through neuromodulation. There are DARPA-funded projects that attempt to do so.”

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Such technologies raise concerns about abuse not only by governments but also by corporations.

Journalist Noah Kulwin compared brain-reading tech to self-driving cars, suggesting that the former “can’t possibly work as presently marketed,” and given that governments aren’t prepared with human rights protections, companies will be empowered to “do a bunch of unregulated experimentation.”

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GOP operative who dated Maria Butina pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering: report

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Yet another Republican operative caught up in the 2016 scandal into Russian election interference will plead guilty to federal crimes.

"Paul Erickson, the former boyfriend of convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering according to a plea agreement filed in a South Dakota federal court Monday afternoon," The Daily Beast reports. "In a two-page statement detailing the factual basis for the plea, Erickson said he conned someone called only “D.G.” into wiring him $100,000, under the pretense that the money was for a real estate investment in North Dakota."

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It’s not ‘worth our time’ to pretend Trump is ‘serious’ about cooperating with the investigation: Intel Democrat

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On Monday's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," Rep Eric Swalwell (D-CA), the second-in-command of the House Intelligence Committee, brushed aside President Donald Trump's suggestion that he will testify in the impeachment probe as not a serious suggestion.

"The president says he's considering Speaker Pelosi's suggestionn that he provide written answers to the questions in the inquiry," said anchor Wolf Blitzer. "Do you agree?"

"Well, Wolf, he hasn't turned over his taxes despite saying he would do that, and didn't show up in person with Bob Mueller despite saying he would do that, and giving written statements to the Mueller team," said Swalwell. "We would like the witnesses we subpoenaed to come to Congress. He's not serious in this process, and I don't think it's worth our time engaging with him on this, other than to say we have a lot of evidence right now and we shouldn't allow him to dictate the terms for this investigation."

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US moves to end decades-old movie distribution rules

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The US Justice Department signaled Monday that it plans to end a 71-year-old antitrust enforcement program on movie distribution, saying it is no longer needed to protect consumers.

Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim announced that the Department of Justice would move this week to terminate the Paramount Consent Decrees, which went into force in 1948.

The decrees -- which smaller movie chains and drive-in theaters still champion -- barred major film studios from owning movie theaters, a system that had existed in the early part of the twentieth century and largely blocked independent venues from being able to show hot films.

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