Ryan Calo is an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law and a former research director at CIS. A nationally recognized expert in law and emerging technology, Ryan's work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, Wired Magazine, and other news outlets. Ryan serves on several advisory committees, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the Future of Privacy Forum. He co-chairs the American Bar Association Committee on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence and serves on the program committee of National Robotics Week.
Over Christmas, I received a series 530 Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner from iRobot. It cleans the floor really well. But that is all it does. This year at the Consumer Electronics Show, iRobot revealed the prototype AVA. It is, essentially, an open robotic platform. Think of it as an iPad with a body. It has no dedicated purpose and, importantly, it has an API and will run software made by third-party developers.
Yes, apps for robots. This is a wonderful development, one that I predicted in a forthcoming essay in Maryland Law Review. As iRobot founder Colin Angle points out, "If you think of the thousands of apps out there: Which iPad apps would be more cool if they moved?" More importantly, would you not be more inclined to buy a personal robot that came with thousands of programs, with more on the way.
UPDATE: The New York Times published most of the rest of my comments on Bits Blog. Thanks!
I was quoted in a cover story in today's New York Times as saying, essentially, that law enforcement was "just trying to do their job" in pushing for greater subpoena power. This particular remark was an aside, made if anything to soften the impression that I was overly critical of the government. For instance, I lamented that consumers do not understand the state of the electronic privacy law and spoke about the dangers of dragnet or otherwise excessive surveillance. (Presumably I am one of the unnamed "[e]lectronic privacy and civil rights advocates" that worries "because the WikiLeaks court order gained such widespread attention, it could have a chilling effect on people’s speech on the Internet.")
I did not mean to imply that we should not push back against government and in fact praised Google and Twitter for having done so. I did offer that the government's purpose in pushing for greater surveillance power was not to erode civil liberties for its own sake, but in order to protect Americans by detecting and punishing crimes. But the gist of my remarks was that we need more protection, not less. Some of my talking points appear below for context.
Affiliate scholar Marvin Ammori offers eight good reasons why the United States should not prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. I mostly agree with Ammori’s analysis and write to emphasize one point: an Assange trial, regardless of outcome, would help the government gloss over one of the worst security breaches in modern history. And the First Amendment could supply this distraction’s brightest fireworks.
The website Wikileaks recently published hundreds of thousands of confidential State Department cables. These communications apparently reveal the details of conversations with, and personal impressions and assessments of, foreign leaders and diplomats. Many fear that the leak will undermine international relations in profound and unknowable ways. One of the unintended consequence of the leak, however, may be to strengthen the case for a national consumer privacy law.
UPDATE: As told to Jules Polonetsky over at The Future of Privacy Forum, Capital One was engaging in "totally random" rate changes that were not related to browser type. On the other hand, according to the Wall Street Journal, Capital One was at one point using [x+1] data to calibrate what credit card offers to show.
The other day, I suggested that the facts of the Clementi suicide may perfectly illustrate why no actual transfer of information is necessary for someone to suffer a severe subjective privacy harm. (Thanks to TechDirt and PogoWasRight for the write ups.)
Just now I learned about an allegation against Capital One that the company offered someone a different lending rate on the basis of what browser he used (Chrome vs. Firefox). A similar allegation was made against Amazon, which apparently used cookies for a time to calibrate the price of DVDs.
Here you have a clear objective privacy harm: your information (browser type) is being used adversely in a tangible and unexpected way. It matters not at all whether a human being sees the information or whether a company knows "who you are." Neither personally identifying information, nor the revelation of information to a person, is necessary for there to be a privacy harm.
Over the last year, the FBI has had harsh words for Apple, accusing the tech giant of endangering human lives and aiding criminals by turning on encryption by default on the iPhone. When Google announced it would add the feature to Android, meaning that smartphone users would need to unlock their phones for police to be able to go through them, government officials and law enforcement representatives similarly freaked out.
Privacy law scholars tend to be skeptical of markets. Markets “unravel” privacy by penalizing consumers who prefer it, degrade privacy by treating it as just another commodity to be traded, and otherwise interfere with the values or processes that privacy exists to preserve.
In a fresh and recent whitepaper, Brookings Institution senior fellow Benjamin Wittes and law student Jodie Liu turn the standard privacy argument on its head: as they see it, many supposed threats to our privacy actually benefit it.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced its proposal this morning for what rules should govern small unmanned aerial systems, meaning drones 55 pounds or lighter. We do not know how long it will take for the rules to go into effect. When they do, the new rules will permit vastly more drone use in the United States, bringing us closer into line with other countries where drones can be commercially operated today.
"“I don’t see a privacy problem with leveraging cell towers,” says Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, where he teaches a class on robotic law and policy. “If a centralised place is keeping track of these things, we would have some accountability. I don’t believe anybody thinks we should have anonymous drones the way we should have anonymous web surfing.”"
"University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo says, "There is very little in American privacy law today that really restricts the use of drones by the government or by individuals."
Only about eight states do have legislation limiting or prohibiting the use of drones for spying or surveillance. They are Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.
"It's gonna take some time. Hopefully we'll be able to figure out the right balance with drones," says Calo."
"Because one thing we can’t overlook is that drones at the border can be invaluable. “Let’s not have a failure of imagination of how useful these things are,” Ryan Calo said to me recently. “What about drones that find other drones because people are sending crystal meth over the border?” he asked."
"“The DMV and especially the state legislature, only listening to Google, wrote a law that was fine for Google but was really problematic for car manufacturers,” said Ryan Calo, a law professor and robotics specialist at the University of Washington campus."
"“It’s a tenuous stretch of that provision to say that it also covers autonomous vehicle reports,” says Bryant Walker-Smith, a lawyer with the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. “I suspect this is a policy decision made within the DMV or perhaps by others within government that they do not want to expose companies to this kind of public scrutiny, or they want to encourage candor that might otherwise by stymied.”"
The University of Washington School of Law is delighted to announce a public workshop on the law and policy of artificial intelligence, co-hosted by the White House and UW’s Tech Policy Lab. The event places leading artificial intelligence experts from academia and industry in conversation with government officials interested in developing a wise and effective policy framework for this increasingly important technology. The event is free and open to the public but requires registration. -
CIS Affilate Scholar Ryan Calo wil be part of a panel titled "Understanding the Implications of Open Data".
How can open data promote trust in government without creating a transparent citizenry?
CIS Affiliate Scholars Peter Asaro, Ryan Calo and Woodrow Hartzog will all be participating in this two-day conference.
Registration is open for We Robot 2015 and we have a great program planned:
Friday, April 10
Registration and Breakfast
Welcome Remarks: Dean Kellye Testy, University of Washington School of Law
Introductory Remarks: Ryan Calo, Program Committee Chair
The University of Washington School of Law is delighted to announce a public workshop on the law and policy of artificial intelligence, co-hosted by the White House and UW’s Tech Policy Lab. The event places leading artificial intelligence experts from academia and industry in conversation with government officials interested in developing a wise and effective policy framework for this increasingly important technology.
Simon Jack reports from Seattle on robots at work. From the Boeing factory where robots make planes to a clothes shop where a robot helps him buy a new pair of jeans. Plus Ryan Calo, professor of law at the University of Washington, grapples with the question of who to blame when robots go wrong, and whether there is such a thing as robot rights.
There are a million ways people might use drones in the future, from deliveries and police work to journalism. But in this episode, we’re going to talk about consumer drones — something that you or I might use for ourselves. What does the world look like when everybody with a smart phone also has a drone?
"“We don’t need to get to this crazy world in which robots are trying to take over in order for there to be really difficult, interesting complex legal questions,” says Ryan Calo, professor of law at the University of Washington, “That’s happening right now.”
Here’s a sample:
“How do we make sure these drones are not recording things that they shouldn’t," Calo says, "and those things aren’t winding up .... on Amazon servers,or somehow getting out to the public or to law enforcement?"