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Mind-Reading: The Next Great Privacy Debate?

New MRI technology lets doctors see images in your mind - now there's a scary thought

If your employer could read your mind, would you still have a job?

Scientists have taken MRI scanning equipment normally used in hospital diagnosis to detect lying, to uncover racism, and even to identify which image a person is looking at, according to a report in today's Daily Telegraph.

At the Cheltenham Science Festival, backed by The Daily Telegraph, Professor Geraint Rees of University College London said that, although hospital patients and experimental volunteers are protected, there is a need for debate as to whether employers could use mind-reading methods to decode brain activity to screen job applicants.

Although "conceptually possible," Rees says the technology currently is firmly in the realm of science fiction. The mind-reading methods, which typically detect tiny changes in blood flow in the brain, have to be adapted to each individual during hours of training while in the scanner.

"You need an all-purpose lie detector that would work with many people," he says. "That is quite challenge, given people's brains are different shapes and sizes, and lies come in many variations too."

However, he also warned that the technology is improving, and could one day be used to evaluate brain scans -- even old scans in medical archives. "We have to think about [the privacy issue] now, because we are going down this road," Rees says.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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