Mobile EEG Devices: Group Interactions, Privacy and the Brain (2020-2021)


We are living in a society replete with widespread data collection about individuals. Consumer-based electroencephalograph (EEG) devices are marketed and sold to consumers for tracking and improving their brain activity through neurofeedback. These devices are currently being used by the military and sports teams, as well as on factory employees. Additionally, countries like China and Chile are having their high-speed train drivers and truck drivers wear the device to monitor attention, distraction and cognitive load while driving.

While the validity of these devices for academic research is becoming clear, there are unique privacy and data sharing concerns because of their ability to gather and decode real-time brain activity in everyday contexts such as education, employment, gaming and fitness.

Project Description

This project team will build on the research of previous teams to take the next step in understanding the brain states of individuals while they partake in everyday activities. The goal will be to explore the privacy implications of the use of brain data, along with consumer attitudes, behavior and judgments about brain data and brain analytics. Ultimately the team will seek to understand how these devices could affect society in the future.

In 2020-2021, the team will construct and administer surveys to the general population to gain a nuanced perspective of public views on the privacy of brain data across contexts. Team members will also consider how to identify varying brain states while individuals participate in a listener-speaker experiment.

Team members will ask a series of questions, such as:

  • Does the type of information that is being listened to affect the activation of different brain states?
  • Is there a difference in the activation of varying brain states if the speaker is physically present or shown on a screen?
  • Does having others around affect how well individuals pay attention to a speaker?
  • Do expectations of privacy with respect to brain data reflect a lack of understanding or a lack of belief about the capabilities of brain decoding?
  • What are the policy implications of consumer attitudes toward privacy?
  • Can we alter the way the people feel about certain types of information being shared?
  • Does one’s own personal connection with a piece of information affect how sensitive they view the information to be?

Anticipated Outputs

Manuscripts for publication; opinion pieces; poster presentations; written and oral presentations


Fall 2020 – Spring 2021

  • Fall 2020: Present research at International Neuroethics Society and Society for Neuroscience conferences; begin data collection for listener-speaker EEG study; collect data investigating privacy concerns associated with brain data
  • Spring 2021: Present research at Cognitive Neuroscience Society conference; analyze EEG data

This Team in the News

Duke Law Faculty, Students Tackling Diverse Interdisciplinary Research Projects through Bass Connections

See earlier related team, Consumer EEG Devices: Attention, Emotion, Privacy and the Brain (2019-2020).


Image: Duke Science & Society

Mobile EEG.

Team Leaders

  • Nita Farahany, Duke Law|Arts & Sciences-Philosophy
  • William Krenzer, Science & Society

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Karan Desai
  • Tolulemi Gbile
  • Melinda Guo, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Shikhar Gupta, Neuroscience (BS), Public Policy Studies (AB2)
  • Shenyang Huang, Neuroscience (BS), Mathematics (BS2)
  • Allison Kunstler, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Umika Paul, Electrical & Computer Egr(BSE), Computer Science (BSE2)
  • Sophie Sepehri

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Donald Beskind, Duke Law
  • Guillermo Sapiro, Pratt School of Engineering-Electrical & Computer Engineering