Skip to main content

Brain Control: The impact of science and technology on our mental health, law, and privacy


Panel of experts discuss the virtues and risks of our digital health data being captured and used by others in the age of Facebook, metadata retention laws, Cambridge Analytica and a rapidly evolving neuroscience. The discussion was moderated by Jon Faine, ABC Radio presenter. The panelists were:

  • Mr Sven Bluemmel, Victorian Information Commissioner
  • Prof Judy Illes, Neuroethics Canada, University of British Columbia, Order of Canada
  • Prof Mark Andrejevic, Professor of Media Studies, Monash University
  • Ms Vrinda Edan, Chief Operating Officer, Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council



Topics covered in this lesson

Smartphones, smartwatches, other wearable devices and apps are now a part of everyday life. These technologies promise to improve our lives in many ways, through increased work flexibility and making us more connected to friends, family and the wider world. In continuously monitoring our thoughts, movements, and behaviours, these devices can uncover new insights about the nature of mental illness. Continuous monitoring may enable doctors to better tailor treatments to patients, and to diagnose and potentially prevent disease. The addition of artificial intelligence may be used to prevent suicide or predict future neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease or dementia.

These technologies raise many social, ethical and legal dilemmas:

  • Who collects and has access to our data?
  • Do we know what is done with our data?
  • Who benefits from this?
  • Is our privacy at risk?
  • Could these data be used to discriminate against vulnerable populations?
  • How might our data be used by third parties such as educators, insurers, employers and courts?


Back to the course