There’s a new biometric marker in town being used for authentication: the EEG (electroencephalograph). Brain waves have a cacaphony of information about emotional state, learning ability and personality traits, now being collected in relaxation or gaming apps through inexpensive headsets as simple as earbuds. So instead of iris scans and fingerprints, now it’s EEGs. However, it’s yet another privacy invading and eminently hackable source of data. Privacy: the collectors of information off that app may be matching your brain wave pattern to those on a data base–say, alcoholics. “In a blind trial, a machine learning classifier, trained to recognize brain patterns associated with alcoholism, used the brain wave data from the authentication systems to accurately identify 25 percent of the alcoholics in the sample.” You may not be a drinker, and the reading may be utterly ‘off’, but now it’s in the open, you have no idea of how it will be used. Similar patterns can be used to match from databases to identify learning disabilities, mental illnesses and more, which could make you tough to insure, for instance. IEEE Spectrum Hat tip to former editor Toni Bunting.
The next generation of peripherals may not be external at all. Already around 50,000 early adopters or bodyhackers are implanting glass RFID chips in their hands or other parts of their bodies to let themselves into their homes and offices or to store emergency information. The head of a digital unit of Capgemini stored his Scandinavian Airlines boarding pass and travel information in a December test. This type of chip, about the size of a rice grain, uses no electricity but will activate when scanned by a reader. It’s easy to forecast medical uses such as records before surgery (operate on the right foot, not the left), an ID and information for someone post-stroke or with dementia, or as smart card loaded with funds. But this Editor can see it coupled with a nanosized battery as being tested now in external sensor patches or biostickers as John Rogers at University of Illinois, MC10 and others have been designing for several years–and the potential geometrically increases to send out other data such as vital signs. Perhaps EEGs one day? Wall Street Journal — plus a collection of our coverage of sensor patches