Greetings, fellow inhabitants of post-2020 (or post 1/1/2020) earth. I decided to drop in to mention something that may become more important in the not-too-distant future (this decade), and that's probably not on your radar yet (I like to think a step or two ahead): the use of dyes and other methods to shield the human brain from unwanted scanning.
Let me begin by playing a game of make-believe with you: let's just suppose that prototype non-invasive brain computer interfaces (BCIs) are a lot more advanced than people think; and that consumer versions will become available in the very near future. (In fact, if you want to carry the imagination to further extremes: suppose what I wrote here is already well underway, and that the tech is so far along people wouldn't even believe you, if you told them -- haven't I written about that before, a couple months back?:
Maybe, in fact, Zombie AGIs built with brain data already exist and are being put through their paces. One never knows...
But that's a topic for another time.
Just think about what authoritarian governments will do with this technology -- there are already hints:
But what if they had BCIs 10,000x better than EEG to work with? Then, maybe they'd make certain types of workers wear them all the time; also prisoners and "subversives". It would be like how people under house arrest are forced to wear ankle bracelets.
And with much more powerful brain-scanners, a greater ability to classify people's thoughts follows soon after -- e.g. if the leader on-screen elicits emotions of disgust or ridicule, that can maybe be predicted with reasonably high accuracy; maybe even much more subtle things, like "subversive thoughts".
Critics -- like The Verge -- will say, "But it doesn't work!" and will present some cherry-picked examples showing it failing. My response to that is: you better hope and pray it does work! -- because it will get used, regardless. And if it doesn't work that well, innocents will suffer. And the authorities will know this; but it will be considered an acceptable loss, in order to quell potential challenges to the leaderships' authority.
China isn't the only country to worry about in this regard. Just look at some of the nationalists on this forum from other countries (besides China), and how treasonous they would deem biting criticism from within their own ranks.
It could even happen in the U.S. -- or Europe. It's all a matter of what abuses of power people will tolerate. Given a choice between attacking ones own political party and allowing abuses to privacy that would make Orwell spin in his grave, you better believe many would choose the latter!
Laws will not protect you.
But here's something that might, or might at least slow it down: consider a dye or other substance you ingest as a pill, that slowly makes its way into your bloodstream; gets past the blood-brain barrier; and then lodges itself in your brain for a period of weeks or months -- not permanent. The substance slightly scrambles -- adds noise to -- the signal that BCIs will use to read your mind. It would have to work against multiple technologies (infrared light scanning, ultrasound, magnetic scanning, etc.); but it's possible such a substance can be manufactured. Getting past the blood-brain barrier might be very hard to pull off. That might require some additional trick.
Perhaps the answer lies not in a drug, but in a thin wire, inserted into ones bloodstream -- a cheap, simple, effective blocking mechanism.
My suspicion is that there will be methods that work against some scanning modalities, but not others; and if the ones it works against are the cheap ones, leaving only expensive methods to track individuals, governments won't waste the money -- they'll only spend it if they can track thousands and millions for only a few hundred dollars per device.
And, now, I bid you farewell... for a little while. I might show up again to direct your attention to some amazing tech news, just in case you missed it.