The ICO exists to empower you through information.

Neurotechnologies can offer significant benefits and opportunities for people, organisations, and societies. The development of neurotechnologies can:

  • support easier access to a variety of services and interconnected devices, including for health sector patients and consumers (eg remote physiotherapy);
  • offer potential new treatments for neurodegenerative conditions and greater accessibility for people with disabilities;
  • advance the scientific knowledge of the human brain and develop rich sources of neurodata to support the field of neuroscience; and
  • enable innovation and support economic growth.

While technological innovations can offer opportunities and challenge the status quo, they can present new issues and risks that can undermine the progress they promise. We will monitor the speed and breadth of development and anticipate future deployment in order to respond in a timely and proactive manner. It is therefore important that we consider both the potential benefits and harms of these rapidly evolving technologies.

Processing neurodata poses a significant and specific risk to people’s information rights in three distinct ways:

  • The intrinsic and involuntary nature of neurodata; neurodata is subconsciously generated and people have no direct control over the specific information which is disclosed.
  • The potential for organisations to collect large scale, complex data sets about a person. This may allow organisations to draw detailed inferences about highly sensitive information, such as mental health.
  • Neurotechnology’s potential to not only observe and collect neurodata, but to modulate neuropatterns and alter behaviour. This would heighten the risks for people around the automated use of their personal information, and may lead to a lack of transparency and understanding about how and why organisations are using it.

There are a large number of analyses of neurotechnologies. For example, those produced by the Royal Society, the Future Privacy Forum, the Law Society, the European Council, UKRI’s Knowledge Transfer Network, UNESCO, the IEEE and the UK’s Regulatory Horizon Council.2 In many of these, the focus has been either medical applications of neurotechnologies or the broader ethical issues raised by the future uses of neurodata. This includes reports that explore the potential creation of new neurorights in legislation, such as the right to neuroprivacy (see Annex C for details).

Neurorights are not directly analogous to data protection and the requirements of UK data protection law are distinct. However, there is overlap between the two areas and ethical issues remain important, such as neuroprivacy. It is only recently that reports have begun to explore data protection issues directly, often on a global basis.3 We have written this report within this context.

In addition to briefly examining the legal, regulatory and ethical context, we also consider emerging market indicators about neurotechnologies, such as funding and patents. Understanding the broader market is important in assessing which sectors are likely to see markets develop first and what issues may emerge.

At a national level, there is clear evidence that the UK private sector is investing in neurotechnology, with some 34 companies focusing on this sector. On a global scale, investment in neurotechnologies and the creation of related patents continues to increase significantly across a variety of sectors. This growth reflects the potential to develop and deploy neurotechnologies in regions where data protection regimes differ significantly from the UK GDPR. In certain cases, use of these neurotechnologies may not adhere to the expectations we have for fairness and transparency in the way they use personal information. We explore these further In turn, this may pose significant challenges if these devices become common in the UK or are used by those with data rights under the UK GDPR.  

In recent years, consumer devices have become increasingly prominent alongside the historically prominent medical devices. This includes devices focused on psychiatric research, wristband based neural interfaces, and the development of surgically implanted (invasive) and wearable (non-invasive) devices designed to enhance cognition and access to online spaces.4 Read Annex A for further analysis.

2 iHuman Neural Interfaces Perspective (, FPF-BCI-Report-Final.pdf,, A-transformative-roadmap-for-neurotechnology-in-the-UK.pdf (, 384185eng.pdf ( and Neurotechnology Regulation The Regulatory Horizons Council (


4 Gartner Maverick-_Research__731765_ndx.pdf and 1680a429f3 (