Human Enhancing Technologies and Individual Privacy Right

Human Enhancing Technologies and Individual Privacy Right

Joanna Kulesza (University of Lodz, Poland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6433-3.ch076
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This chapter provides a legal perspective on the application of Human Enhancing Technologies (HET), in particular on Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs), emphasizing threats they bring to individual privacy. The author discusses the geographical, political, and cultural differences in understanding the individual right to privacy, as granted by human rights treaties and customary international law, and confronts them with the threats brought about by HET. The era of globalized services rendered by transnational companies necessitates an answer to the question on the possible and desired shape of effective individual protection of human rights from the threats brought about by advancing HET. Be it biomedical or geolocalisation data, when fueled through the Big Data resources available online, individual data accompanying the HET becomes a powerful marketing tool and a significant national and international security measure. The chapter aims to identify the privacy threats brought about by the HET and proposes a business-ethics based solution.
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The focal point of the analysis provided is the ineptitude of the contemporary international legal system to effectively protect individual privacy. Yet the changing economic models and the development of the globalised world shift the burden of human rights protection from national authorities to international companies, including HET based service providers. In 2006 the European Parliament emphasized the need to respect high ethical principles in protecting individual privacy by all parties involved in HET including the private sector and re-addressed that need in its latest 2008 report. The growing role of self-regulation and business ethics in respecting individual privacy was also well envisaged in the 2009 European Commission’s code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research. The author argues that the contents of the human right to privacy, well recognized in human rights law since 1948 is becoming more of an ethics based standard than a legal construct. The potential advantages but also the threats of the HET application add to this evolution. National authorities can no longer effectively protect individual privacy, while private parties operating the technologies are often well equipped to do so. As UN Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur Frank LaRue emphasized in his latest report it is the private sector that will now bear the burden and the responsibility to protect human rights in the globalized international society (LaRue, 2011). Endeavors such as the Global Network Initiative aim to help service providers meet the international standards of privacy protection, regardless of national authorities’ involvement. Academics aid companies in the better recognition of their users’ needs aiming at a stronger market position, since privacy is a strong currency in the information based economy. Providers of HET services need to recognize this specific of the hybrid economy we are witnessing and shape their privacy policies accordingly. Therefore the chapter aims to define the privacy challenge behind the HET and propose its business-ethics based solution.

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