Freedom of thought in Europe: Do advances in ‘brain-reading’ technology call for revision?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Since advances in brain-reading technology are changing traditional epistemic boundaries of the mind, yielding information from the brain that enables to draw inferences about particular mental states of individuals, the sustainability of the present framework of European human rights has been called into question. More specifically, it has been argued that in order to provide adequate human rights protection from non-consensual brain-reading, the right to freedom of thought should be revised, making it ‘fit for the future’ again. From the perspective of criminal justice, the present paper examines whether such a revision is necessary within the European legal context. It argues that under its current understanding, the right to freedom of thought would probably not cover the employment of most brain-reading applications in criminal justice. By contrast, the right to freedom of (non-)expression will provide legal protection in this regard and, at the same time, will also allow for certain exceptions. Hence, instead of revising the absolute right to freedom of thought, a legal approach tailored to non-consensual brain-reading could be developed under the already existing right not to convey information, ideas, and opinions as guaranteed under the freedom of (non-)expression. This might need to re-interpret the right to freedom of expression, rather than the right to freedom of thought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Law and the Biosciences
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jul 2020


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