Elon Musk's company, Neuralink, is creating a microchip that can be inserted into a patient's head. Credit: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Elon Musk's brain implant company Neuralink will be regulated in the UK under new rules developed by the privacy watchdog.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned that new “neurotechnology”, where implanted microchips or wearable gadgets are used to monitor brainwaves, poses a “real danger” if misused.
Rapid advances in brain-scanning devices have been touted as having the potential to allow paralyzed people to walk again or help the blind to see. These so-called mind-reading technologies, which monitor the brain's electronic signals, could also be used to treat mental illness.
Tech giants, meanwhile, are rushing to develop brain-monitoring gadgets for virtual reality. experience, video games and even advertising.
Musk's company, Neuralink, is creating a microchip that can be inserted into a patient's head. It has received the green light from US regulators to begin human trials.
Neuralink hopes to embed a coin-sized chip in the human brain that will capture electronic signals using tiny filaments and transform them using artificial intelligence.
U.S. patients with quadriplegia, paraplegia, vision loss, and hearing loss were asked to indicate their interest in testing the technology, which has so far been tested in monkeys and pigs.
A coin-sized chip will pick up electronic signals and transform them using artificial intelligence. Credit: Neuralink
While the ICO refused to spin off individual companies, technologies such as Mr. Musk's “brain-computer interface” are expected to face renewed scrutiny by the bystander over the use of personal information.
In a report released on Thursday, the regulator warned that there is a risk that data collected through these technologies could be used to discriminate against protected groups or to unfairly spy on employees.
Neurotech gadgets can also collect vast amounts of sensitive personal information in the form of unfiltered brain activity.
Stephen Almond, Executive Director of Regulatory Risk at ICO, said: “Neurotechnology collects personally identifiable information that people are often unaware of, including emotions and complex behaviors. If these technologies are not developed or deployed properly, the consequences could be dire.
“We will closely monitor the evolution of this market to ensure that the risks we highlight in this report are accepted and mitigated.”
Data collection by neurotech companies will already be regulated. in line with UK data laws, but the ICO has said it will lay out specific recommendations and “clear expectations” for the nascent sector by 2025.
The most advanced brain monitoring technology currently being developed for medical use.
Brain implants were able to help Gert-Jan Oskar walk again after he was paralyzed. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images
Brain implants have led to recent breakthroughs in medicine, such as helping a person paralyzed in a bicycle accident to walk again.
Gert-Jan Oskam, a 40-year-old Dutchman, was able to use a brain implant that connected wirelessly to a chip in his spine to help him use his legs and feet.
We hope that its chip will help people with disabilities use mobile phones or tablets.
Other non-invasive technologies such as digital headbands can also be used for monitoring. brain activity and are already being used for activities such as sleep tracking.
Meta, which owns Facebook, is working on a neurotech bracelet to transform tiny hand and finger movements into the digital world.
But the ICO warned that there was a “real danger of discrimination” from the technology against neurodiverse people, such as people with autism. Companies can use this technology to make hiring decisions by assessing employee performance or attitudes based on data.