Privacy, Consumer EEG Devices and the Brain (2017-2018)

Consumer electroencephalogram (EEG) devices, or brain wearables, are marketed and sold to consumers for tracking and improving their brain activity through neurofeedback. These devices raise unique concerns about data gathering and sharing practices because of their unprecedented ability to gather real-time brain activity in everyday contexts such as education, employment, gaming and fitness.

This project team explored consumer attitudes, perceptions, behaviors and judgement about consumer-based EEG devices. The team created and administered two surveys designed to address general attitudes towards brain wearables and perceptions of data collection and privacy. The team found that although many survey participants wanted to try brain wearables on themselves, most were uncomfortable with the idea of sharing their data with third parties even when they had control over their sharing preferences. The team also found that people were very concerned that consumer-based EEG devices would be capable of reading their thoughts. However, the team discovered that only specific types of thoughts are considered highly sensitive, leading them to conclude that ongoing calls for neuroprivacy must be calibrated with consumer concerns regarding particular types of information.


Fall 2017 – Fall 2018

Team Outcomes

Consumer Concerns with the Privacy of Data Collected from Brain Wearables (poster by Beatrice Capestany, Elish Mahajan, Lydia Kwong, Nita Farahany), presented at Bass Connections Showcase, April 18, 2018

This Team in the News

New Bass Connections Project Explores Privacy, Consumer EEG Devices, and the Brain

See related team, Privacy, Consumer EEG Devices and the Brain (2018-2019).

Team Leaders

  • Nita Farahany, Duke Law|Arts & Sciences-Philosophy

/graduate Team Members

  • Stephanie Santistevan, Psychology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Elish Mahajan, Biology (BS)
  • Yu Jin Oh, Neuroscience (BS), Int Comparative Studies (AB2)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Beatrice Capestany, Science & Society
  • Marty Woldorff, School of Medicine-Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences