Abstract

Emerging surveillance technologies now allow operators to collect information located within the brain of an individual, allow the collection of forensic evidence regarding cerebral and cognitive processes, and are even beginning to be able to predict human intentions. While science has not yet produced a mind-reading machine per se, the devices referred to as cognitive camera technologies are substantial steps in the direction of that inevitable result. One such technique, a proprietary method called Brain Fingerprinting, is used as an example of the strong trend towards increasingly invasive and ever more powerful surveillance methods, and provides an entrée to a discussion of the limitations, if any, that the constitution might impose on such methods. The article then outlines three basic frameworks used by the Supreme Court in its Fourth Amendment jurisprudence that might be used to determine whether official use of cognitive camera technologies would pass constitutional muster, and concludes with the suggestion that no one of the three available frameworks would create a significant obstacle to the exploitation of these techniques or to the use of the collected information in legal proceedings.

The Fourth Amendment's failure in this regard is demonstrated by reference to underlying, socially-constructed norms regarding freedom of thought and cognitive autonomy. The article samples the fields of social psychology and Cartesian philosophy, theology, and democratic political theory in order to weave together what may be called a social consensus on the place, importance, and substance of free and unfettered cognitive liberty - the right to be left alone in one's head, the right to create a social persona using particular and unique identity vectors, and the right to think and imagine what we wish without the possible threat of observation. The inability of the Fourth Amendment to preserve that kind of freedom, which our society has always cherished, and which by consensus we agree must be protected against interference, presents an opportunity to suggest that a new orienting principle should motivate our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. The remainder of the article is spent outlining that new principle and deeply engaging the various constitutional interpretive theories that might support if not command adherence to this modified Fourth Amendment approach. The author thus seeks to make a connection between technological development, surveillance and Fourth Amendment liberty, and attends to the ways in which our burgeoning surveillance society poses a threat to the very core of what we think it means to be human.