Sunday, January 14, 2018 by Jayson Veley
Our society has reached a point where it is now more difficult to think of things that are truly private than it is to think of things that are not. Indeed, virtually every new piece of technology has the ability to infringe on your privacy rights to one degree or another. Now, it appears that even your private emotions aren’t safe.
A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say that they have developed new technology that is capable of accurately reading a person’s concealed emotions from a distance. That means that regardless of whether you feel excited, angry or happy, and regardless of how well you are trying to hide it, this new device will be able to see through even the best poker face and read you like a book.
MIT researchers claim that their “EQ-Radio” is accurate 87 percent of the time at detecting concealed emotions. Even though this may sound like something that only appears in science fiction films, especially considering the fact that it does not need to be directly linked to a person’s pulse and body in order to operate, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) say that their device works by sending out WiFi signals to read one’s concealed emotions. These signals bounce off a person to read things like their heart rates and other relevant information that helps it to determine how the person is feeling. (Related: New AI technology can read your mind by decoding your brain signals.)
As reported by BigThink.com, “One of the challenges the team faced was filtering out extraneous ‘noise’ such as breath sounds to clearly detect the heart rate. Bear in mind that it’s not audio that EQ-Radio has to analyze, but instead data that reflects the speed of the WiFi bounceback. So ‘noise’ refers to irrelevant data, not the actual sound of, say, your breath. That they’re able to measure heart rate with about a .3% margin of error is remarkable. That’s as good as an ECG monitor.”
BigThink.com explained further that the emotion-reading device “is based on previous work the lab has done using WiFi to detect human movement,” and that the goal of previous work done by researchers at MIT was to use WiFi to “control heat and lighting based on your location, and to detect if an elderly person has fallen.” (Related: AI mind reading technology can tell if you’ve knowingly committed a crime.)
Let’s respond to the development of this emotion-reading technology by first stating the obvious – this country is starting to look more and more like George Orwell’s famous book 1984 with each passing day. At times when we least expect that we’re being watched, we’re being watched. At times when we least expect that we’re being listened to, we’re being listened to. In many ways, spying on Americans without their knowledge or consent is becoming commonplace in the United States, and all the while, the Fourth Amendment continues to be eroded.
Second, even though the EQ-Radio may sound cool on the surface, it becomes a bit more frightening when one considers what this technology could potentially be used for. What if, for example, the EQ-Radio was installed in surveillance cameras across some of America’s largest cities? Then, not only would these cameras be able to capture video footage of you and record audio, but they would also be capable of reading your emotions without you even knowing.
What if the device is used to spot an anxious person in a crowd or at work based on their heartbeat? Would investigators and employers be able to get away with this, or would it be a violation of individual liberty? When it comes to EQ-Radio, at this point, there appear to be more questions than answers, and more potential problems than solutions.