Stay Out of My Head: Neurodata, Privacy, and the First Amendment

84 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2022 Last revised: 7 Dec 2023

See all articles by Wayne Unger, JD

Wayne Unger, JD

Quinnipiac University School of Law

Date Written: August 1, 2022

Abstract

The once science-fictional idea of mind-reading is within reach as advancements in brain-computer interfaces produce neurodata—the collection of substantive thoughts as storable and processable data. But government access to individuals’ neurodata threatens personal autonomy and the right to privacy. While the Fourth Amendment is traditionally considered the source of privacy protections against government intrusion, the First Amendment provides more robust protections with respect to whether governments can access one’s substantive ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. However, many theorists assert that the concept of privacy conflicts with the First Amendment because privacy restricts the flow of information while, on the other hand, the First Amendment is meant to promote the free flow of information. As technology advances and new categories of data are created and stored—like neurodata—it becomes more evident that the First Amendment actually promotes privacy by precluding government intrusion upon the freedom of thought and the right to a free mind.

This Article argues that the First Amendment serves as a more robust source of privacy protections than the Fourth Amendment, at least with respect to government intrusion into an individual’s neurodata, because such intrusion would violate the First Amendment’s right not to speak. As brain-computer interfaces become more prevalent, and produce more neurodata, the First Amendment’s well-established doctrines against compelled speech ought to extend to prevent government access to an individuals’ stored ideas, thoughts, and beliefs.

Keywords: First Amendment, Speech, Religion, Neurodata, Neurotechnologies, Brain, Neurology, Privacy, Data Privacy, Security, Data Security, Freedom, Bill of Rights, Thought, Ideas, Beliefs, Freedoms, Brain Computer Interface, BCI, Religion, Founders, Framers, Constitution

Suggested Citation

Unger, Wayne, Stay Out of My Head: Neurodata, Privacy, and the First Amendment (August 1, 2022). Wayne Unger, Stay Out of My Head: Neurodata, Privacy, and the First Amendment, 80 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 1439 (2023)., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4293432 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4293432

Wayne Unger (Contact Author)

Quinnipiac University School of Law ( email )

275 Mt. Carmel Ave.
Hamden, CT 06518
United States

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