Brain-computer interface (BCI)

Facebook to buy a leading brain interface startup

Photo of a person wearing a VR headset and gesticulating with two controllers
Facebook's Oculus VR headset. Photo: Amy Osborne / AFP / Getty

Facebook announced Monday that it will buy CTRL-Labs, a startup developing an arm-worn device that reads brain signals. The companies did not disclose the deal's price tag, but reports range from upwards of $500 million to as much as $1 billion.

Why it matters: Facebook has been developing its own brain–machine interface for several years, but this is a major acquisition that could propel its technology quickly forward — and in a way that's potentially less invasive of users' privacy.

Brains are the last frontier of privacy

Illustration of a brain wrapped up in a lock and chains.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Brain–computer interfaces, once used exclusively for clinical research, are now under development at several wealthy startups and a major tech company, and rudimentary versions are already popping up in online stores.

Why it matters: If users unlock the information inside their heads and give companies and governments access, they're inviting privacy risks far greater than today's worries over social media data, experts say — and raising the specter of discrimination based on what goes on inside a person's head.