Hacking Your Thoughts - Batman Forever meets Black Mirror

Conference:  Defcon 27



The talk discusses the potential risks and ethical concerns associated with brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) and the need for data privacy regulations and opt-out options. It emphasizes the importance of considering the problem being solved, the least amount of information needed, and local processing. The speaker also encourages individuals to contact their federal legislators to inquire about their position on data privacy and regulating emerging technologies.
  • BCIs pose potential risks and ethical concerns
  • Consider the problem being solved and the least amount of information needed
  • Local processing is important
  • Contact federal legislators to inquire about data privacy and regulating emerging technologies
The speaker mentions a dystopian future portrayed in the TV show Black Mirror where a video game is used to elicit personal information from a player and use it against them. She contrasts this with a more positive future portrayed in Star Trek where a character uses a BCI to take in information from the outside world without invading their privacy.


Companies are coming for your brains. The electricity in your brains, to be more precise. Valve, Facebook, Elon Musk and more are funding research into technologies that will translate neural signals into controls for devices like computers, smartphones, and VR/AR environments. While this would be super exciting, it represents some serious data privacy issues. First: what kind of private information can be elicited from your neural signals? It’s possible to use a specific kind of neural response to visual and audio stimuli to deduce information about the user… like where you bank, who you know, your real identity, etc (Edward Nygma in Batman Forever, anyone?) More broadly, there is also the issue of what happens when you provide your neural signals to a company. If you’re worried about what Facebook is doing with your information now, imagine what they can do when they have hours of information straight from your brain. If neural data is treated the same as your DNA, commercial companies become the owners of your thoughts (as electrical signals). Will they readily share it with the FBI without probable cause? These kinds of questions, and many more, are starting to surface with neurally-controlled devices and other emerging technologies. This talk will cover all of this and more.