New technologies could make it possible for companies to track your emotions and health just by scanning your body
06/06/2018 // Edsel Cook // Views

Companies might not need to mine data from your Facebook account, track your smartphone, or hack your Internet connection to find out how you think and feel. In a U.K. Business Insider article, the natural processes of your body provide clues about your emotions and health, and emerging technologies can read these signs – and you – like an open book.

Examples of these technologies appeared at the recent 2018 TED Conference in Vancouver, Canada. Chief researcher Poppy Crum from Dolby Laboratories demonstrated one during her talk session.

First, Crum directed everyone to watch a scary movie clip. Afterwards, she presented a visualization that showed the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by the audience during the video.

While the audience was gasping in horror at the movie clip, the Dolby researcher was keeping track of their CO2 emissions. Crum pointed out the deep red clouds of carbon dioxide that marked the moment of shock for some viewers.

She also noted that the combined suspense of the entire audience contributed to the sharp rise of the gas levels. (Related: Facebook confirmed to be a massive spy machine that records your conversations and violates your privacy.)

Passive data gathering technology tracks your body to find out what you feel and think

Passive data gathering technology is becoming sufficiently advanced enough to reveal our true feelings and thoughts to other people. A counselor could use it to identify the true emotional state of a student, while health professionals could determine if a patient was suffering from a mental breakdown or another kind of aggression.

Crum applied her expertise at neurophysiology at Dolby's research facility. She took readings of human biology using electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment, heart rate and perspiration trackers, pulse oximeters, and heat imaging cameras.

She said film and television producers have a lot of questions about the kind of scenes that trigger reactions in the audience. The producers use this information to improve the effectiveness of their media when it comes to eliciting the desired reaction from viewers.

In Crum's opinion, passive data gathering technology will likely enter widespread use. She believed the technology can be used for good, but she also admitted that its usage could also count as a breach of privacy.

She pointed out that technology has advanced to the point that we can now objectify the internal state of the human body. Subjective unknowns like emotions can now therefore be quantified by increasingly sensitive biosensor technology.

Data gathering technology can detect diseases, but at the cost of privacy

For example, changes in speech are linked to the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The passive information collection technology can gather speech data of potential patients for healthcare professionals.

Likewise, teachers could use data about the reactions of their students to find out who is having trouble in class.

Crum also brought up how she herself only accepted phone meetings that have video feedback. According to her, women who work in a predominantly male workplace are easily interpreted to be aggressive over the phone.

She believed passive data tracking technology could show the emotions that take place during these impersonal meetings to head off any chance of misunderstandings.

"It’s not that we [need to be] sharing everything, but how do you make sure people have understood you, that they've been able to take away the message you’re trying to share?" she posed.

Crum claimed to be aware of the way this technology takes a sledgehammer to the concept of personal privacy. She wanted authorities to come up with effective regulations before the tech becomes commonplace.

You can find out how to better protect your privacy from invasive data collection technologies at

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