Mind Reading- the Global World War III begun in 1973- Since 1973 DARPA has been studying mind-reading with EEG hooked to computers, using scientists at the University of Illinois, University of Florida, UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester.

Mind Reading- the Global World War III begun in 1973- Since 1973 DARPA has been studying mind-reading with EEG hooked to computers, using scientists at the University of Illinois, University of Florida, UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester.

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Mind-Reading
History

Probably no more “intrusive and persistent” method of obtaining information about a person exists than reading their mind.1 Research on mind-reading has been vigorously pursued by US government agencies and various academic centers since the 1970s, and continues to this day.

Since 1973 DARPA has been studying mind-reading with EEG hooked to computers, using scientists at the University of Illinois, UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester.

They developed a system that could determine how a person perceived colors or shapes and were working on methods to detect daydreaming, fatigue, and other brain states. Although the device had to be calibrated for each person’s brain by having them think a series of specific thoughts, the calibration was quick.

In 1974 another very basic mind-reading machine was created by researchers at Stanford Research Institute. It used an EEG hooked to a computer which allowed a dot to be moved across a computer screen using thought alone. When interpreting people’s brainwaves, it was right about 60% of the time. During these tests scientists discovered that brain patterns are like fingerprints, each person has their own. So, each computer would have to be calibrated for a specific person.

Another method to address this issue was to store a large amount of generic patterns on the computer, so when it encountered a brain pattern it didn’t recognized, it used one that most resembled it. Since then, DARPA has sponsored Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) and mind-reading programs at Duke University, MIT, University of Florida, and New York State University, Brooklyn.

The Human Computer Interaction group at Tufts University has studied mind-reading funded by grants from a government research and education agency known as the National Science Foundation (NSF). Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University, and the MIT Sloan School of Management have studied mind-reading. The Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in England has developed mind-reading machines based on facial expressions.

Other academic institutions that have participated in mind-reading projects include the University of California, Berkeley, University of Maryland, and Princeton University in New Jersey. Microsoft has studied mind-reading using EEG to better accommodate its users. Emotiv Systems built a mind-reading gaming device which uses EEG to infer the mental states of video game players. Honda Motors and Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) have studied mind-reading.
Neuroimaging Devices

Scientists discovered that the neural code of the human brain is similar to the digital code of a computer. To some extent, they have deciphered this code. Prior to this, they assumed that it was necessary to identify the neurons associated with specific acts, which would have made mind-reading much more difficult.2

They now understand that it’s not necessary to monitor billions of neurons to determine which are connected to a particular thought or act. Only a small number of them need to be monitored to accomplish this. To monitor these neurons researchers use neuroimaging devices. They include event-related optical signal (EROS), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), functional near-infrared imaging (fNIR), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and positron emission tomography (PET).3 These devices may be combined for a more accurate reading.

There are basically two types of measurements, direct methods and indirect methods. Direct methods measure changes in electromagnetic fields and currents around the brain which are emitted from the surface of the scalp, or they monitor the neurons themselves. Indirect methods measure hemodynamic (blood movement) changes of hemoglobin in specific tissue compartments.

Both of these methods are almost simultaneous with neuronal activity. Regarding sensors, there are invasive ones which must be implanted, and non-invasive ones which can be worn on the scalp, in the form of a headband.

Electroencephalography (EEG) provides a direct method for determining brain states and processes by measuring the electrical activity on the scalp produced by the firing of neurons in the brain. EEG has been around for over 100 years. EEG is commonly used in neuroscience, cognitive science, and cognitive psychology. It is inexpensive, silent, non-invasive, portable, and tolerates movement.

Wireless EEG which uses non-invasive sensors that have physical contact with the scalp can transmit the signals to a remote machine for deciphering. Although, in 1976 the Los Angeles Times reported that DARPA was working on an EEG to detect brain activity several feet from a person’s head, which was to be completed in the 1980s. EEG normally produces only a general indicator of brain activity.

However, in 2008 Discovery News reported that a company called Emotiv Systems developed an algorithm that decodes the cortex, providing a more accurate measurement. “We can calibrate the algorithm across a wide range of technologies with the same resolution you would get from placing an invasive chip inside the head,” said Tan Le, president of Emotiv Systems.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures the blood flow in the brain in response to neural activity. Active neurons use oxygen, which is brought to them by blood. The more active a region of the brain is the more blood flows in the area. This movement of blood is referred to as hemodynamic activity. FMRI can detect which areas are receiving blood, which indicates that they’re processing information.

The fMRI provides an indirect measurement of brain processes. It is the most common method of neuroimaging, and can produce 2 and 3-dimensional images. It is non-invasive, and can record signals from all brain regions, unlike EEG which focuses on the surface only.

Functional near-infrared imaging (fNIR) provides an indirect measurement of brain activity by detecting hemodynamic changes in the cortex. Although it is based on different principles, in that it uses light, it functions in the same manner as fMRI. FNIR can provide an almost continuous display of these changes in the cortex. It is inexpensive, non-invasive, and portable. A wireless headband with sensors exists for this device.

Event-related optical signal (EROS) is a brain-scanning device that focuses near-infrared light into the cerebral cortex to detect the density of neurons indicated by the transparency of brain tissue. Because it can only detect these changes a few centimeters deep, it can only image the cerebral cortex. Unlike fNIR, which is an optical method for measuring blood flow, EROS detects the intensity of neurons themselves and provides a direct measurement of brain activity. It is very accurate, portable, inexpensive, and non-invasive. A wireless headband with sensors exists for this device.
Capabilities

Mind-reading can be accomplished by first having a computer learn which brain patterns are associated with specific thoughts, then store the decoded information in a database. This machine learning is accomplished using a type of artificial intelligence (AI) called an algorithm. A very basic algorithm is a spell checker, which uses a database of common mistakes associated with a particular sequence of letters to present suggestions to a user.

“The new realization is that every thought is associated with a pattern of brain activity,” proclaimed neuroscientist John Dylan Haynes, in Newsweek International on February 4, 2008. “And,” says Haynes, “you can train a computer to recognize the pattern associated with a particular thought.”

In a January 2000 issue of US News and World Report, Lockheed Martin neuroengineer Dr. John Norseen announced, “Just like you can find one person in a million through fingerprints … you can find one thought in a million.” This can be accomplished using AI and HCI, or what Dr. Norseen calls biofusion.

The decoded brain signals can be stored in a database. Then when someone is scanned, the computer detects the pattern and matches the signals to the database of known meanings. But it’s not necessary to scan a brain to decode its signals for every single thought, such as a picture.

Instead, after the machine has learned how to decipher patterns associated with specific thoughts such as images, more images can be added to the program and the computer can use the process it used for the other images as a model to somewhat accurately detect additional thoughts.

Both words and images can be detected using mind-reading devices with varying degrees of accuracy. This can occur for words and images being viewed by a person on an external display, such as a book, or words and images just being thought of with no external stimuli.

“It is possible to read someone’s mind by remotely measuring their brain activity,” announced New Scientist in their Mind-Reading Machine Knows What You See article of April of 2005. The Computational Neuroscience Laboratories at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) in Kyoto Japan, and Princeton University in New Jersey, proved that by monitoring the visual cortex with fMRI they could determine which basic objects (sets of lines) a person was looking at.

When the objects were combined, they could even determine which one was being focused on. According to the scientists, it may be possible not only to view but also to record and replay these images. They announced that the technology could be used to figure out dreams and other secrets in people’s minds.

Vanderbilt University in Nashville has conducted simple mind-reading tests using an fMRI/Computer, which learned what basic images a group of test subjects was looking at. They were able to predict with 50% accuracy which objects the test subjects were thinking of when they were asked only to remember what they had seen, without being shown the images.

On March 6, 2008 ABC News reported that neuroscientists at the University of California at Berkeley accomplished mind-reading by monitoring the visual cortex with an fMRI connected to a self-learning (artificial intelligence) computer program.

First, they used 1750 pictures to build a computational database for the computer to learn with by flashing the pictures in front of test subjects connected to an fMRI. This allowed the algorithm to decipher the brain patterns and associate them with the images.

In addition to deciphering these brain patterns, the computer recorded the process that it used to accomplish this, and built a model based upon it. Then, without scanning the test subjects, they added 120 new pictures to the program and allowed it to create its interpretation of what the new brain signals would be, based on the previous model.

Then they had the test subjects look at these pictures which they had never seen while being scanned. The computer predicted what they were looking at 72% of the time. The scientists announced that the model could be used as a basis to predict the brain activity associated with any image.

What this means is that it’s not necessary to scan a brain to obtain the meaning of each signal. Once the model had been developed, they could simply add new pictures to the database/dictionary. The scientists suggested that out of 1 billion pictures, the computer would be accurate about 20% of the time.

Images which are not consciously seen by a person can even be detected by mind-reading machines. Researchers at University College London flashed pictures in quick succession to test subjects connected to an fMRI. Although some of these pictures were invisible to the subjects, they were accurately recorded 80% of the time by the computer.

Like a fingerprint, each person has their own brainprint. Therefore, calibration for each brain is necessary. This is accomplished by having the person think a series of specific thoughts. In the case of EEG, this calibration can take less than a minute. However, because the signals which represent thoughts are similar from one person to the next, a universal mind-reading database has been suggested.

Using fMRI, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) discovered that the brain patterns associated with specific thoughts are quite similar among multiple people. This, they stated, would provide the opportunity to create a universal mind-reading dictionary.

Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley mentioned that a “general visual decoder” would have great scientific use. Likewise, the brain patterns associated with specific words that occur when people are reading are also basically the same. This similarity of brain functions associated with words seems to have been an evolutionary development which allowed for an advantage in communication.

A mind-reading machine capable of determining the brain pattern associated with a specific word was developed by scientists at CMU. Brain scans using fMRI were taken of test subjects who were given a variety of words to think of in order to train the computer. An important consideration here is that they were not viewing these words on an external display, only thinking about them. After the computer identified the brain patterns associated with those words, the subjects were given two new words to think about, which the computer accurately determined.

Although, in this particular study only a couple of words were tested, it proves that after a model of how to decipher brain signals was created, AI could accurately determine new words that subjects were thinking about. “These building blocks could be used to predict patterns for any concrete noun,” proclaimed Tom Mitchell of the Machine Learning Department.

In February of 2004 Popular Science announced that a mind-reading computer could, in theory, translate a person’s working verbal memory onto a computer screen. “You could imagine thinking about talking and having it projected into a room 2,000 miles away,” says Professor Craig Henriquez at Duke University’s Center for Neuroengineering, who has studied mind-reading for DARPA. He added, “It’s very, very possible.”

FMRI can be used to determine if someone is reading or writing. Neuroscientists can determine when a person is reading by monitoring their brainwaves. They can almost determine exactly what they’re reading. And because these patterns are similar from one person to the next, a universal device for determining what people are reading is possible.

In March of 2008 both Technology Review and ABC News revealed that an fMRI could in theory be used to display a person’s dreams. Then in December of 2008, scientists at ATR in Kyoto Japan announced that they developed a technology that would eventually allow them to record and replay a person’s dreams.

Emotions from love to hate can be recognized by neuralimaging. The level of stress a person is experiencing can also be measured. Brain states such as honesty, deception, and even self deception, can be measured.

Patterns associated with decisions can also be read. Scientists from CMU, Stanford University, and the MIT Sloan School of Management were able to accurately predict the purchasing decisions of test subjects in a virtual shopping center. They monitored the subject’s level of interest in a product as well as their decision to purchase it.

Neuroimaging can also detect decisions about how someone will later do a high-level mental activity. Neuroimaging can be used to determine if someone is speaking or reading. It can be used to detect areas of the brain that are active when someone is hearing a sound, or touching an object.

Brain patterns associated with specific physical movements, such as a finger, can be deciphered with neural imaging. The mere intention to make a physical movement can be detected before the actual movement is made.
Cameras

A type of mind-reading is possible with cameras connected to computers. One such device, called the Emotional Social Intelligence Prosthetic (ESP), was developed at the MIT Media Laboratory in 2006. It consists of a tiny camera that can be worn on a hat, an earphone and a small computer that is worn on a belt. It infers a person’s emotional state by analyzing combinations of subtle facial movements and gestures.

When an emotional state is detected, the wearer is signaled through the earphone to adjust their behavior in order to gain the attention of the target. The computer can detect 6 emotional states. It can also be adjusted for cultural differences and configured specifically for the wearer.

Around this time, the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, UK, developed a similar camera-based mind-reading machine. It uses a computer to monitor, in real-time, combinations of head movement, shape, color, smiles, and eyebrow activity to infer a person’s emotional state.

It detects basic emotional states such as happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust, as well as more complex states. It’s accurate between 65 and 90 percent of the time. “The mind-reading computer system presents information about your mental state as easily as a keyboard and mouse present text and commands,” they announced.
Used for Surveillance

Mind reading exists. The DOD and various institutions have vigorously researched this subject since at least the mid 1970s. “Mapping human brain functions is now routine,” declared US News and World Report, in an article entitled Reading Your Mind—And Injecting Smart Thoughts, of January of 2000.

Both words and images, being viewed or thought, can be mind-read. Various emotional states as well as mental processes such decisionmaking, reading, writing, movement and the intention to make a movement, can be detected with mind-reading devices. Perceptions such as touch, sound, and light can also be detected.

The proposed uses for mind-reading technology are positive. Some include determining if people in comas can communicate, helping stroke patients and those who suffered brain injuries, aiding those with learning disorders, assisting with online shopping, and improving people’s communications skills.

However, other uses that have been suggested include the monitoring of unconscious mental processes, and interrogation of criminal suspects and potential terrorists. Dr. John Alexander mentioned that the recent developments in mind-reading technology would take surveillance to new levels by allowing investigators to “peer into the inner sanctum of the mind,” in order to determine if a suspect has caused, or will likely cause a crime.

Dr. Norseen has sent R&D plans to the pentagon to have tiny mind-reading devices installed at airports to profile potential terrorists. He suggested that these devices could be functional by 2005. In August of 2008, CNN stated that the US military’s knowledge obtained from mind-reading research could be used to interrogate the enemy.

Law Enforcement Technology announced in September of 2005 the existence of a new forensic technology known as Brain Fingerprinting, which has already been used in hundreds of investigations as a lie detector by the CIA, FBI and law enforcement agencies in the United States.

Brain Fingerprinting is admissible in court, because unlike a polygraph, which relies on emotional responses, it uses EEG to see how the brain reacts to words and pictures related to a crime scene. Dr. Larry Farwell, its inventor, says it is completely accurate. According to the report it will be used to help speed-up investigations.

Sources Next
Endnotes

1 Another possible method to obtain information is Remote Viewing. RV is the ability to produce correct information about people, events, objects, or concepts that are somewhere else in space and time, and are completely blind to the viewer collecting the information. It can be used to describe people or events, produce leads, reconstruct events, make decisions, and make predictions about the future. See Remote Viewing Secrets by Joseph McMoneagle. RV tests were conducted by the US government over a 20-year period during Project Stargate, a classified initiative by the CIA which began in 1972 and lasted until about 1994. Most of the 154 tests and 26,000 trials took place at the Cognitive Sciences Laboratory at Forte Meade, Maryland. A majority of the results of the project are still classified. See the Journal of Parapsychology articles, Remote Viewing by Committee, September 22, 2003, by Lance Storm and Experiment One of the SAIC Remote Viewing Program, of December 1, 1998, by Richard Wiseman and Julie Milton. The success of the project varies depending on the source. Allegedly the original tests were conducted under rigid scientific conditions, which had impressive results. However, the same sources describe RV in general as ineffective. See Discover Magazine’s article, CIA ESP, on April 1, 1996, by Jeffrey Kluger, and the Washington Post’s report, Many Find Remote Viewing a Far Fetch from Science, on December 2, 1995, by Curt Suplee. According to author McMoneagle, an original viewer during Project Stargate, it is accurate about 50 or 60 percent of the time. Nevertheless, RV will be used to obtain intelligence, according to John B. Alexander. See The New Mental Battlefield, which appeared in the December 1980 issue of Military Review. Also see the June 1998 Research Report Number 2 of the University of Bradford’s Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project (BNLWRP), for how RV has been added to the NLW arsenal. According to multiple sources, US government agencies are now using the consulting services of RV professionals. This was reported on January 9, 2002 in the University Wire’s (Colorado Daily) article, Clairvoyant Discusses Reveals Details of Remote Viewing, by Wendy Kale, and in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on September 1, 1994, in its report, The Soft Kill Fallacy by Steven Aftergood. In his book Winning The War: Advanced Weapons, Strategies, and Concepts for the Post-911 World, Alexander had this to say regarding RV: “Since the beginning of history, humans have made anecdotal references to innate abilities to foretell the future, to know what was occurring at distant locations or the status of people separated from them, and to find resources they need without any traditional means of accessing that information.” He continued: “Studies have demonstrated beyond any doubt that these nontraditional capabilities exist. … [RV can] radically change our means of gathering intelligence. It holds the promise of providing information about inaccessible redoubts and advances in technology. More importantly, once these skills are understood, those possessing them will be able to determine an adversary’s intent and be predictive about the events.”

2 Because neuroimaging technology decodes brain patterns to thoughts, some argue that it technically doesn’t read a person’s mind. However, because specific thoughts and brain states can be deciphered, here it is referred to as mind-reading. Additionally, most mainstream documents refer to this as mind-reading, despite the fact that it is actually brainwave-reading.

3 Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and positron emission tomography (PET) can also be used to infer a person’s neurophysiological state. But because they are impractical for field use due to their large size and harmful radiation, MEG and PET won’t be considered here. However, DARPA is in the process of developing a small helmet-sized MEG device which would be connected to a portable computer. See the article Mind over Machine in the February 1, 2004 issue of Popular Science, by Carl Zimmer.barrieTrowerTranscripitons.doc

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3 thoughts on “Mind Reading- the Global World War III begun in 1973- Since 1973 DARPA has been studying mind-reading with EEG hooked to computers, using scientists at the University of Illinois, University of Florida, UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester.

  1. They now understand that it’s not necessary to monitor billions of neurons to determine which are connected to a particular thought or act. Only a small number of them need to be monitored to accomplish this. To monitor these neurons researchers use neuroimaging devices. They include event-related optical signal (EROS), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), functional near-infrared imaging (fNIR), magnetoencephalography (MEG), and positron emission tomography (PET).3 These devices may be combined for a more accurate reading.

    There are basically two types of measurements, direct methods and indirect methods. Direct methods measure changes in electromagnetic fields and currents around the brain which are emitted from the surface of the scalp, or they monitor the neurons themselves. Indirect methods measure hemodynamic (blood movement) changes of hemoglobin in specific tissue compartments.

    Both of these methods are almost simultaneous with neuronal activity. Regarding sensors, there are invasive ones which must be implanted, and non-invasive ones which can be worn on the scalp, in the form of a headband.

    Electroencephalography (EEG) provides a direct method for determining brain states and processes by measuring the electrical activity on the scalp produced by the firing of neurons in the brain. EEG has been around for over 100 years. EEG is commonly used in neuroscience, cognitive science, and cognitive psychology. It is inexpensive, silent, non-invasive, portable, and tolerates movement.

    Wireless EEG which uses non-invasive sensors that have physical contact with the scalp can transmit the signals to a remote machine for deciphering. Although, in 1976 the Los Angeles Times reported that DARPA was working on an EEG to detect brain activity several feet from a person’s head, which was to be completed in the 1980s. EEG normally produces only a general indicator of brain activity.

    However, in 2008 Discovery News reported that a company called Emotiv Systems developed an algorithm that decodes the cortex, providing a more accurate measurement. “We can calibrate the algorithm across a wide range of technologies with the same resolution you would get from placing an invasive chip inside the head,” said Tan Le, president of Emotiv Systems.

  2. Federal Privacy Laws in the USA- 1. surreptitious interception of conversations in a house or hotel room is eavesdropping. See e.g., N.Y. Penal §§ 250.00, 250.05

    2. one has a right of privacy for contents of envelopes sent via first-class U.S. Mail. 18 USC § 1702; 39 USC § 3623

    3. one has a right of privacy for contents of telephone conversations, telegraph messages, or electronic data by wire. 18 USC § 2510 et seq.

    4. one has a right of privacy for contents of radio messages. 47 USC §605

    5. A federal statute denies federal funds to educational institutions that do not maintain confidentiality of student records, which enforces privacy rights of students in a backhanded way. 20 USC § 1232g. Commonly called the Buckley-Pell Amendment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. See also Krebs v. Rutgers, 797 F.Supp. 1246 (D.N.J. 1991); Tombrello v. USX Corp., 763 F.Supp. 541 (N.D.Ala.1991).

    6. Records of sales or rentals of video tapes are confidential. 18 USC §2710

    7. Content of e-mail in public systems are confidential. 18 USC § 2702(a).

    8. Bank records are confidential. 12 USC §3401 et seq.

    9. library records are confidential in some states. e.g., N.Y. CPLR § 4509; Quad/Graphics, Inc. v. Southern Adirondack Library Sys., 664 N.Y.S.2d 225 (N.Y.Sup.Ct. 30 Sep 1997). Privay laws in the USA- 1. What is Privacy?

    Privacy is the expectation that confidential personal information disclosed in a private place will not be disclosed to third parties, when that disclosure would cause either embarrassment or emotional distress to a person of reasonable sensitivities. Information is interpreted broadly to include facts, images (e.g., photographs, videotapes), and disparaging opinions.

    The right of privacy is restricted to individuals who are in a place that a person would reasonably expect to be private (e.g., home, hotel room, telephone booth). There is no protection for information that either is a matter of public record or the victim voluntarily disclosed in a public place. People should be protected by privacy when they “believe that the conversation is private and can not be heard by others who are acting in an lawful manner.” Am.Jur.2d Telecommunications § 209 (1974).

    The easiest method to keep information confidential is to disclose it to no one, but this is too severe a method, in that it forces a person to be a recluse and denies a person medical care, among other unacceptable limitations.

    2. History of privacy law

    Legal concepts like ownership of real property and contracts originated many hundreds of years ago and are now well established in law. In contrast, the right of privacy has only recently received legal recognition and is still an evolving area of law. It is generally agreed that the first publication advocating privacy was the article by Warren and Brandeis, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harvard L.R. 193 (1890). However, the codification of principles of privacy law waited until Prosser, Privacy, 48 Cal.L.Rev. 383 (1960), which Prosser subsequently entered into the Second Restatement of Torts at §§ 652A-652I (1977).

    Early invasions of privacy could be treated as trespass, assault, or eavesdropping. Part of the reason for the delay in recognizing privacy as a fundamental right is that most modern invasions of privacy involve new technology (e.g., telephone wiretaps, microphones and electronic amplifiers for eavesdropping, photographic and video cameras, computers for collecting/storing/finding information). Before the invention of such technology, one could be reasonably certain that conversations in private (e.g., in a person’s home or office) could not be heard by other people. Before the invention of computer databases, one might invade a few persons’ privacy by collecting personal information from interviews and commercial transactions, but the labor-intensive process of gathering such information made it impossible to harm large numbers of victims. Further, storing such information on paper in file cabinets made it difficult to use the information to harm victims, simply because of the disorganized collection of information.

    The famous phrase, the right “to be let alone” has a long history. As far back as 1834, the U.S. Supreme Court mentioned that a “defendant asks nothing — wants nothing, but to be let alone until it can be shown that he has violated the rights of another.” Wheaton v. Peters, 33 U.S. 591, 634 (1834). The phrase, “the right to be let alone”, also appears in a law textbook [T.M. Cooley, A Treatise on the Law of Torts 29 (2d ed. 1888)], as corresponding to the duty “not to inflict an injury”, for example, by battery. This argument was expanded by Warren and Brandeis in their famous law review article, cited supra. Subsequently, Brandeis used the phrase “the right to be let alone” in his famous dissent in Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928), the first wiretapping case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The “right to be let alone” is the most terse definition of the right to privacy, although, through numerous U.S. Supreme Court decisions cited later in this article, this phrase has come to be associated with preventing invasions of the private sphere by the government.

    3. Modern Privacy Law

    Because privacy is an emerging right, a discussion of privacy is typically a list of examples where the right has been recognized, instead of a simple definition. Privacy can be discussed in two different directions: the nature of the right and the source of the right (e.g., case law, statute, Constitution).

    Prosser, in both his article and in the Restatement (Second) of Torts at §§ 652A-652I, classifies four basic kinds of privacy rights:

    1. unreasonable intrusion upon the seclusion of another, for example, physical invasion of a person’s home (e.g., unwanted entry, looking into windows with binoculars or camera, tapping telephone), searching wallet or purse, repeated and persistent telephone calls, obtaining financial data (e.g., bank balance) without person’s consent, etc.

    2. appropriation of a person’s name or likeness; successful assertions of this right commonly involve defendant’s use of a person’s name or likeness on a product label or in advertising a product or service. A similar concept is the “right of publicity” in Restatement (Third) Unfair Competition §§46-47 (1995). The distinction is that privacy protects against “injury to personal feelings”, while the right of publicity protects against unauthorized commercial exploitation of a person’s name or face. As a practical matter, celebrities generally sue under the right of publicity, while ordinary citizens sue under privacy.

    3. publication of private facts, for example, income tax data, sexual relations, personal letters, family quarrels, medical treatment, photographs of person in his/her home.

    4. publication that places a person in a false light, which is similar to defamation. A successful defamation action requires that the information be false. In a privacy action the information is generally true, but the information created a false impression about the plaintiff.

    Only the second of these four rights is widely accepted in the USA. In addition to these four pure privacy torts, a victim might recover under other torts, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, or trespass.

    Unreasonable intrusion upon seclusion only applies to secret or surreptitious invasions of privacy. An open and notorious invasion of privacy would be public, not private, and the victim could then chose not to reveal private or confidential information. For example, recording of telephone conversations is not wrong if both participants are notified before speaking that the conversation is, or may be, recorded. There certainly are offensive events in public, but these are properly classified as assaults, not invasions of privacy.

    statutes

    Other privacy rights are contained in criminal statutes. For example,

    1. surreptitious interception of conversations in a house or hotel room is eavesdropping. See e.g., N.Y. Penal §§ 250.00, 250.05

    2. one has a right of privacy for contents of envelopes sent via first-class U.S. Mail. 18 USC § 1702; 39 USC § 3623

    3. one has a right of privacy for contents of telephone conversations, telegraph messages, or electronic data by wire. 18 USC § 2510 et seq.

    4. one has a right of privacy for contents of radio messages. 47 USC §605

    5. A federal statute denies federal funds to educational institutions that do not maintain confidentiality of student records, which enforces privacy rights of students in a backhanded way. 20 USC § 1232g. Commonly called the Buckley-Pell Amendment to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. See also Krebs v. Rutgers, 797 F.Supp. 1246 (D.N.J. 1991); Tombrello v. USX Corp., 763 F.Supp. 541 (N.D.Ala.1991).

    6. Records of sales or rentals of video tapes are confidential. 18 USC §2710

    7. Content of e-mail in public systems are confidential. 18 USC § 2702(a).

    8. Bank records are confidential. 12 USC §3401 et seq.

    9. library records are confidential in some states. e.g., N.Y. CPLR § 4509; Quad/Graphics, Inc. v. Southern Adirondack Library Sys., 664 N.Y.S.2d 225 (N.Y.Sup.Ct. 30 Sep 1997).

    professional ethics

    Other examples of privacy are included in professional ethics, such as confidentiality of disclosures during physician-patient, priest-penitent, attorney-client relationships, together with the evidence code that protects such disclosures. Violation of such confidentiality can be a tort. Humphers v. First Interstate Bank of Oregon, 696 P.2d 527 (Or. 1985)(physician violated confidentiality of adoption by helping daughter find her birth mother). The violation of confidentiality could also be a matter for a professional licensing board.

    invasions of private sphere by government

    The privacy issue arises in a different context when the government attempts to limit the choices of individuals in various personal areas, such as use of contraception or abortion, who to marry, and the right to chose how to rear and educate their children. Some search and seizure issues can also be interpreted as supporting the individual’s right to privacy, against intrusions by the police. In the context of preventing governmental intrusions into personal life, Justice Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the writers of the U.S. Constitution conferred

    the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438, 478 (1928) (Brandeis,J., dissenting).

    The wisdom in this dissenting view lay dormant for many years. The following is a brief history of the use the “right to be let alone” in majority opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    A 1946 majority opinion considered a newspaper’s refusal to comply with a subpoena, in which the Court cited, in a long footnote, Brandeis’ dissent in Olmstead as making “the case for protected privacy”. Oklahoma Press Pub. Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186, 204, n.30 (1946).

    A 1950 majority opinion involved the compliance of two salt companies with a cease and desist order of the Federal Trade Commission, in which the Court mentioned that:

    It is unnecessary here to examine the question of whether a corporation is entitled to the protection of the Fourth Amendment. Although the ‘right to be let alone — the most comprehensive or rights and the right most valued by civilized men,’ is not confined literally to searches and seizures as such, but extends as well to the orderly taking under compulsion of process, neither incorporated nor unincorporated associations can plead an unqualified right to conduct their affairs in secret. While they may and should have protection from unlawful demands made in the name of public investigations, corporations can claim no equality with individuals in the enjoyment of a right to privacy.

    U.S. v. Morton Salt Co., 338 U.S. 632, 651-52 (1949)[citations omitted].

    The Court’s words are interesting, because at the time of the Morton opinion, the Court had still not recognized “the right to be let alone” as a right belonging to individuals. Apparently, the Court simply assumed that the right existed.

    A 1966 majority opinion in a habeas corpus proceeding mentioned that the Fourth and Fifth Amendments stand “as a protection of quite different constitutional values reflecting the concern of our society for the right of each individual to be let alone.” The Court provided no citation to an earlier use of the “right … to be let alone” in this case. Tehan v. U.S., 382 U.S. 406, 416 (1966).

    Finally, in 1967, the Court overturned its ruling in Olmstead and held that recording by police of conversation in public telephone booth was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, because the speaker had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the booth. Katz v. U.S., 389 U.S. 347, 350 (1967). The Court quoted “right to be let alone” from Warren & Brandeis 1890 article, instead of from Brandeis’ dissent in Olmstead, a case on the same issue. Maybe the Court was embarrassed to reverse its earlier position in Olmstead.

  3. Pingback: Federal Privacy Laws in the USA- 1. surreptitious interception of conversations in a house or hotel room is eavesdropping. See e.g., N.Y. Penal §§ 250.00, 250.05 2. one has a right of privacy for contents of envelopes sent via first-class U.S. Mail. 18

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