Ryan Calo's blog

Everyone Knows Privacy Is About Power. Now What?

In a recent op-ed, author Evgeny Morozov claims that we tend to think of privacy in terms of control over personal information rather than power or influence. “The privacy debate, incapacitated by misplaced pragmatism, defines privacy as individual control over information flows,” writes Morozov. Instead we should be thinking of how and why powerful institutions use data to nudge us toward their own economic and political ends. Read more » about Everyone Knows Privacy Is About Power. Now What?

Robotics and the New Cyberlaw

Cyberlaw is the study of the intersection between law and the Internet.  It should come as no surprise, then, that the defining questions of cyberlaw grew out of the Internet's unique characteristics.  For instance: an insensitivity to distance led some courts to rethink the nature of jurisdiction.  A tendency, perhaps hardwired, among individuals and institutions to think of "cyberspace" as an actual place generated a box of puzzles around the nature of property, privacy, and speech. Read more » about Robotics and the New Cyberlaw

Third Annual Robotics and Law Conference “We Robot”

Michael Froomkin, Ian Kerr, and I, along with a wonderful program committee of law scholars and roboticists, have for three years now put on a conference around law, policy, and robotics.  “We Robot” returns to the University of Miami School of Law from Stanford Law School this year and boasts an extraordinary roster of authors, commentators, and participants.  Folks like Jack Balkin, Ann Bartow, Kenneth Anderson, Woodrow Hartzog, Mary Anne Franks, Margot Kaminski, Kate Darling, and David Post, among many others.  Not to mention a demo from a roboticist at the University of Washington whose lab built the surgical robot for the movie Ender’s Game. Read more » about Third Annual Robotics and Law Conference “We Robot”

We Robot: Third Annual Robotics & Law Conference

I'm delighted to announce We Robot 2014, back at the University of Miami School of Law for its third year after a wonderful event at Stanford Law School last April. Cyberlaw is about more than the Internet. As Chris Anderson put it so well in another context, atoms are the new bits. I hope you will join us for another stimulating discussion of the intersection of law, policy, and robotics. Call for papers below. Be there, or be digital. Read more » about We Robot: Third Annual Robotics & Law Conference

Madness And Privacy Harm

Recent research suggests a new trend among paranoid schizophrenics: they believe they are secretly being taped by hidden cameras for purposes of a reality show. I don't know quite what to make of this "fascinating cultural illness," to use Carla Casilli's eloquent label. This population is presumably going to pick some premise for their delusion; what does it matter whether their imagined antagonist is a demon or a director? Read more » about Madness And Privacy Harm

Why Opt Out Of Tracking? Here's A Reason

The Stanford Center for Internet and Society, where I am an affiliate scholar, is a thought leader on consumer privacy and a source for potential solutions. The CIS Cookie Clearinghouse, for instance, intends to publish lists of tracking cookies to block or allow based on objective, balanced criteria informed by consumer expectations. According to recent work by Daniel Solove and CIS affiliate scholar Woodrow Hartzog, Federal Trade Commission privacy enforcement is also trending toward upholding what consumers have come to expect regarding their data. Violating consumer expectations around privacy is probably itself a sufficient reason for intervention. Consumers who take steps not to be tracked, or who rely upon representations that they are not being tracked, shouldn't be. My new project, however, asks a different question: Why should consumers worry about being tracked in the first place? What exactly is the harm here? Read more » about Why Opt Out Of Tracking? Here's A Reason

No Trespass

When Florida v. Jardines, the case where an officer approached a house with a drug-sniffing dog, first came down, Orin Kerr and others noted that the Supreme Court majority never once used the word "trespass." The Jardines concurrence and dissent used the word, and the author of Jardines, Justice Scalia, had used "trespass" repeatedly in United States v. Jones from last term. So why doesn't he use the word in Jardines? Because there really is no trespass test? Because he has new clerks? Just a coincidence? Read more » about No Trespass

Judge Posner’s Surveillance Argument Would Not Withstand An Economic Analysis

Judge Richard Posner took the occasion of the Boston bombing to remind us of his view that privacy should lose out to other values. Privacy, argues Judge Posner, is largely about concealing truths “that, if known, would make it more difficult for us to achieve our personal goals.” For instance: privacy helps the victims of domestic violence achieve their personal goal of living free from fear; it helps the elderly achieve their personal goal of staying off of marketing “sucker lists;” and it helps children achieve their personal goal of avoiding sexual predators online. Read more » about Judge Posner’s Surveillance Argument Would Not Withstand An Economic Analysis

"Brain Spyware"

As if we don’t have enough to worry about, now there’s spyware for your brain. Or, there could be. Researchers at Oxford, Geneva, and Berkeley have created a proof of concept for using commercially available brain-computer interfaces to discover private facts about today's gamers. Read more » about "Brain Spyware"

Is Forensics Law?

I’ve blogged on these pages before about the claim, popularized by Larry Lessig, that “code is law.”  During the Concurring Opinions symposium on Jonathan Zittrain’s 2010 book The Future of The Internet (And How To Stop It), I cataloged the senses in which architecture or “code” is said to constitute a form of regulation.  “Primary” architecture refers to altering a physical or digital environment to stop conduct before it happens.  Speed bumps are a classic example.  “Secondary” architecture instead alters an environment in order to make conduct harder to get away with—for instance, by installing a traffic light camera or forcing a communications network to build an entry point for law enforcement. Read more » about Is Forensics Law?

Good Versus Bad Smart: Some Thoughts On Morozov's Op Ed

I have yet to sit down and read Evgeny Morozov’s new book, To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism.  I certainly found his last book very thought provoking.  But I did get a chance to read an op ed Morozov recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal with the provocative title “Is Smart Making Us Dumb?”  The piece draws a distinction between mobile and other devices that are “good smart” and ones that are “bad smart.”  Good smart devices “leave us in complete control of the situation and seek to enhance our decision-making by providing more information.”  Morozov offers the example of a teapot that relays the state of the energy grid.  Whereas bad smart ones “make certain choices and behaviors impossible,” a theme Lawrence Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, and others famously develop under the rubric of "code." Read more » about Good Versus Bad Smart: Some Thoughts On Morozov's Op Ed

To Code, Nudge, Or Notice, That Is The Question

I wrote a new essay entitled “Code, Nudge, or Notice?” that might interest CIS readers.  The essay compares side-by-side three ways that the government tries to influence citizen behavior short of making it illegal.  It uses contemporary examples, like the graphic warnings the FDA wants to put on cigarettes, to make the point that it sometimes hard to sort regulations into neat categories like “architecture,” “libertarian paternalism,” or “mandatory disclosure” (code, nudge, or notice).  Instead, I argue that regulators should focus on the more fundamental difference between helping people and hindering them.   Along the way, I make the point that all of forensics may be a kind of “code” that turns an ordinary location into a crime scene—sort of like putting a traffic camera up at an intersection only after someone runs the red light.  Thoughts warmly welcome.  Here is the abstract: Read more » about To Code, Nudge, Or Notice, That Is The Question

Five Nonobvious Ways Seattle Is Wired

I recently moved from San Francisco to Seattle.  Among my concerns were (a) weather, (b) Mexican food, and (c) the technology sector.  There is a sea of clouds outside my office right now and the best Mexican food in town ("El Camion") parks behind a Safeway in Ballard.  But let me tell you: Seattle has not disappointed on technology.

Even setting aside the obvious (Microsoft, Amazon, Nintendo, the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, etc.), this city is wired.  Here are five of my favorite examples: Read more » about Five Nonobvious Ways Seattle Is Wired

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