Facebook’s psychic texting feature an invasion of privacy and exploits user data for profit

Esdras Lopez/ Contributing Writer

As one of the most popular platforms for social media, Facebook has undoubtedly changed the landscape of the internet. Now, Facebook wants to lead a technological revolution of another kind with an upcoming psychic texting feature, an extraordinary feat of engineering with a laughably pointless market application if it weren’t so Orwellian and creepy.

The intent of this feature, as explained by the head of the unnamed project, physicist and neuroscientist Mark Chevillet, is to make texting easier for individuals otherwise preoccupied in serious situations such as playing with their VR headset or wearing augmented reality glasses. Another goal of this device is to allow users to text up to 100 words per minute, which is approximately five times faster than we can type manually.

According to Christopher Mims of The Wall Street Journal, 60 scientists and engineers are working for Facebook to update and improve upon “fast optical scattering,” or “event related optical signaling” technology. This technology will emit light energy that will scatter, or deviate, into various irregular directions, passing through the skull, bouncing off neurons and returning to the device.

In theory, the device will detect the neuronal firings as the brain cells expand and contract, and translate these impulses into words.

While neuronal firings have been observed in animals with this tech, it’s a huge leap to tackle processing language with it. Some scientists are skeptical about the viability and overall effectiveness of this tech in this application. Some like Dr. Alexander Huth from UC Berkley think we know too little of how the brain processes language and of how language works for that matter.

Engineer and science writer Rick Nelson wrote, “One problem is that not many photons projected at the head will penetrate the skull, bounce off a neuron, and return through the skull to an external sensor.”

However, if this technology does become viable in the future, it could have a positive purpose when it comes to attempting communication with a comatose patient, for example.

But, this technology has very dark implications if taking into account all the things that could go wrong.

Logan Urbec, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering, is wholeheartedly against Facebook’s plan.

“That sounds really sketchy. Seeing as Facebook already tracks us online to cater ads to specific people, reading our minds to text looks like the next step in adware,” Urbec said. “They’re trying to read minds while saying they’re just going to use it for texting.”

It’s indeed sketchy, especially if taking into consideration all of Facebook’s previous sketchy actions with its users, like social experiments and exploiting user data. If Facebook does find a way to use this data to be able to link with users’ brains, don’t doubt that they will sell your thoughts to their corporate buddies.  

At best, this scenario is reminiscent of “South Park’s Human Cent-iPad” episode and, at worst, with the darkest “Black Mirror” episode imaginable. Any rational person would at least be troubled by this bad idea, which is reminiscent of the book “1984” by George Orwell.

Your individual thoughts are one of the most important things you will ever have in this world. If you can think for yourself, then you are unbreakable. But if Facebook and other companies can access your thoughts, not only would this be the greatest invasion of privacy possible, but you have been hijacked in the worst way imaginable — your most precious thoughts are vulnerable and accessed by the world’s most powerful people to be used in ways you do not know.

Facebook’s telepathic texting is unethical as it is harmful. Should it come out, Urbec declares, “I won’t be using it,” and frankly, neither will I.


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The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.


Photo Credit Sole Treadmill.

Infographic made by Esdras Lopez.

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