, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 5-12
Date: 02 Feb 2010

Brain Imaging and Privacy

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Abstract

I will argue that the fairly common assumption that brain imaging may compromise people’s privacy in an undesirable way only if moral crimes are committed is false. Sometimes persons’ privacy is compromised because of failures of privacy. A normal emotional reaction to failures of privacy is embarrassment and shame, not moral resentment like in the cases of violations of right to privacy. I will claim that if (1) neuroimaging will provide all kinds of information about persons’ inner life and not only information that is intentionally searched for, and (2) there will be more and more application fields of fMRI and more and more people whose brains will be scanned (without any coercion), then, in the future, shame may be an unfortunately common feeling in our culture. This is because failures of privacy may dramatically increase. A person may feel shame strongly and long, especially if his failure is witnessed by people who he considers relatively important, but less than perfectly trustworthy.