Congratulations to S. Rainey, K. McGivrillay, S. Akintoye, T. Fothergill, C. Bublitz, & B. Stahl on their publication entitled “Is European Data Protection Regulation sufficient to deal with emerging data concerns relating to neurotechnology?” that was recently published in Journal of Law and the Biosciences!
Research-driven technology development in the fields of the neurosciences presents interesting and potentially complicated issues around data in general, and brain data specifically. The data produced from brain recordings is unlike names and addresses in that it may result from the processing of largely involuntarily brain activity, it can be processed and reprocessed for different aims, and is highly sensitive. Consenting for brain recordings of a specific type, or for a specific purpose, is complicated by these factors. Brain data collection, retention, processing, storage, and destruction are each of high ethical importance. This leads us to ask: Is present European data protection regulation sufficient to deal with emerging data concerns relating to neurotechnology? This is pressing especially in a context of rapid advancement in the fields of brain computer interfaces (BCIs), where devices that can function via recorded brain signals are expanding from research labs, through medical treatments, and beyond into consumer markets for recreational uses. One notion we develop herein is that there may be no trivial data collection when it comes to brain recording, especially where algorithmic processing is involved. This article provides analysis and discussion of some specific data protection questions related to neurotechnology, especially BCIs. In particular, whether and how brain data used in BCI-driven applications might count as personal data in a way relevant to data protection regulations. It also investigates how the nature of BCI data, as it appears in various applications, may require different interpretations of data protection concepts. Importantly, we consider brain recordings to raise questions about data sensitivity, regardless of the purpose for which they were recorded. This has data protection implications.