Facebook could farm users' thoughts with mind-reading technology to sell adverts

The company calls its technology a 'brain-computer speech-to-text interface'

There are fears that Facebook could record the private thoughts people don't want to share, as well as the ones they do
There are fears that Facebook could record the private thoughts people don't want to share, as well as the ones they do

Facebook may be planning to use people’s thoughts for advertising purposes.

The social network is developing advanced new technologies that would let you type words “directly from your brain”.

Its ambitious vision has caused widespread concern amongst privacy advocates, and the company has refused to confirm or deny if it will use people’s thoughts to sell ads.

“We are developing an interface that allows you to communicate with the speed and flexibility of voice and the privacy of text,” Facebook spokesperson Ha Thai told The Intercept’s Sam Biddle, after being asked if the company would use people’s brain activity for advertising.

“Specifically, only communications that you have already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain. Privacy will be built into this system, as every Facebook effort.”

When pressed on the matter, Mr Thai replied, “Sam, that’s the best answer I can provide as of right now.”

Facebook calls its technology a “brain-computer speech-to-text interface”, and the company has a team of 60 people working on it at Building 8, its futuristic hardware division.

Instead of contacting a friend with a call or a text, you’d be able to transmit your thoughts to them through wearable Facebook sensors.

It was officially unveiled at the F8 conference last month.

“This isn’t about decoding your random thoughts,” the company announced. “Think of it like this: You take many photos and choose to share only some of them. Similarly, you have many thoughts and choose to share only some of them.

“This is about decoding those words you’ve already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain. It’s a way to communicate with the speed and flexibility of your voice and the privacy of text.”

However, a Facebook report from 2013 revealed that the company quietly keeps records of what users type and choose not to share.

“We find that: people with more boundaries to regulate censor more; males censor more posts than females and censor even more posts with mostly male friends than do females, but censor no more comments than females; people who exercise more control over their audience censor more content; and, users with more politically and age diverse friends censor less, in general,” reads the report.

There’s little reason to believe Facebook won’t take the same approach with people’s thoughts, where “self-censorship” is absolutely critical. People filter their own private thoughts constantly, and almost always for a good reason.

“What we learn from companies like Facebook is that if they can make money out of it, they will try to get you to agree to it,” Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, told The Independent.

“They will always argue that intimate data is needed to deliver their services—using it for advertising is just an extra little step.

“Facebook’s business is knowing what you think and feel. I personally would not wish to be brain chipped with technology I have little control over."

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