Ryan Calo's blog

Legal Challenges In An Age Of Robotics

I'm moderating an upcoming panel on law and robotics, co-sponsored by the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance and the Stanford Program in Law Science and Technology's Center for Computers and Law (CodeX). Details below. Register here.

November 12, 2009 from 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Stanford Law School, Room 190

5:30 p.m.- 6:30 p.m. Reception
6:30 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. Panel

Once relegated to factories and fiction, robots are rapidly entering the mainstream. Advances in artificial intelligence translate into ever-broadening functionality and autonomy. Recent years have seen an explosion in the use of robotics in warfare, medicine, and exploration. Industry analysts and UN statistics predict equally significant growth in the market for personal or service robotics over the next few years. What unique legal challenges will the widespread availability of sophisticated robots pose? Three panelists with deep and varied expertise discuss the present, near future, and far future of robotics and the law. Read more about Legal Challenges In An Age Of Robotics

Pokes, Tweets, And Legally Significant Notice

An Australian court rules that a mortgage company can issue notice of a lien over Facebook. A court in the UK permits an injunction to be served via Twitter. A woman is arrested in Tennessee for “poking” someone over Facebook in violation of a protective order. Meanwhile, a 1978 provision of the Bankruptcy Code still provides that notice shall “be published at least once a week for three successive weeks in at least one newspaper of general circulation.” New forms (and norms) of communication are both expanding and contracting the avenues for legally meaningful notice. Just how do we know, in this uncharted new landscape, when notice is enough? Read more about Pokes, Tweets, And Legally Significant Notice

People Can Be So Fake

I've blogged before about the impact of anthropomorphic interfaces and devices. I've recently written an article on the subject. In it I point out that we're using voice-driven and other human-like interfaces more and more. They grab our attention and free up our hands for others tasks. And they can help us accept machines---such as personal or service robots---for a whole new set of tasks.

Psychologists and communications scholars will tell you, however, that our brains are hardwired to treat these "fake" people as though they were real, including with respect to the feeling of being observed and evaluated. That means that we react to such technology, behaviorally and physiologically, as though a person were really present.

This could be bad for privacy. Privacy scholars will tell you that its not good for us to always feel like we're surrounded by others. We need "moments offstage," to use Alan Westin's famous formulation. It could also be good for privacy, particularly on the Internet. Using avatars instead of privacy policies that no one reads or understands could help shore up the failing regime of online notice.

You can view the article here. As of today, it's looking for a good home. Read more about People Can Be So Fake

Amazon Burns Orwell's E-Books

Everyone knows Ray Bradbury’s book Fahrenheit 451. First published in 1953, Bradbury imagined a world in which government “firemen” could enter your home at any time and burn your books “for the good of humanity.” This deeply dystopic vision has, thankfully, not come to pass. Nor could it. In the U.S., the First and Fourth Amendments project against unreasonable government intrusion, especially where it implicates ideas. The state will never be able to enter your house and burn your books, even in an age of terrorism. I really believe that.

That’s why I was so disturbed to learn that Amazon has managed to “burn” two other famous dystopias, these ones by George Orwell, without implicating the Constitution. According to reports, people who had purchased Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm for Kindle woke up to find that Amazon had erased the e-books remotely. Read more about Amazon Burns Orwell's E-Books

Self-Regulatory Principles For Online Behavioral Advertising: "Or" vs. "And"

I’ve blogged before about the Network Advertising Initiative’s opt out for behavioral targeting, noting that there is no guarantee that participants will stop tracking users (only that they will stop serving targeted ads with the data they gather). Now a distinct coalition of online advertisers has proposed its own self-regulatory program, modeled on principles released (PDF) by Federal Trade Commission staff earlier this year. I took a closer look at what the new industry program says about opting out of the collection of user browsing habits. Hint: pay close attention to the use of conjunctions. Read more about Self-Regulatory Principles For Online Behavioral Advertising: "Or" vs. "And"

Weegy: The Future Of Search?

Marissa Mayer, Google’s Vice President of Search Product and User Experience, has said that “search is in its infancy.” If you want a preview of how Internet search might change over the next five to ten years, I encourage you to check out Weegy—“an online artificial being, powered by an advanced search engine and live experts.”

Weegy uses a combination of standard search techniques, low-level artificial intelligence, and crowd-sourcing to answer user questions in fields as diverse as “Parenting & Family” and “Electronics.” Weegy is (very) far from perfect, but does begin to leverage what I consider to be the search technologies of the future. Read more about Weegy: The Future Of Search?

PrivacyCamp Washington, DC 2009

Co-sponsored by the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the Future of Privacy Forum (among others), this inaugural "unconference" brings together interested individuals and organizations to share knowledge and foster collaboration. The event is June 20th, 2009, from 8AM to 5PM at the Center for American Progress (1333 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20005). You can register here and Shaun Dakin is the contact should you have any questions. Read more about PrivacyCamp Washington, DC 2009

State AG Threats To Craigslist Implicate Free Speech

This post is co-authored by Ryan Calo and CIS summer intern Joshua Auriemma.

On Saturday Night Live’s classic segment “Really?!? With Seth & Amy,” two incredulous news anchors blast a ridiculous current event—for instance, the fact that AIG held a lavish retreat six days after receiving 85 billion dollars in federal bailout money to celebrate the company’s top earners. “Really?” Amy Poehler asks. “What does it take to be a top earner at AIG right now? Did you sell your office furniture on Craigslist?”

Some lawyers following the ultimately successful pressure placed by various state attorneys general on Craigslist to take down its erotic services section have experienced a “Really?!?” moment of their own. A particularly unsubtle letter from South Carolina AG Henry McMaster basically threatened Craigslist with "criminal investigation and prosecution" of its management personnel if the popular classifieds website didn’t remove all offending material by 5:00PM, Friday, May 15, 2009. Read more about State AG Threats To Craigslist Implicate Free Speech

WhatApp? Alpha (Preview)

A generous grant from the Rose Foundation has made it possible for the Center to develop WhatApp?, an expert and user-driven review website for software apps that focuses on privacy, security, and other Silicon Values. We now have a working alpha, which we will spend the summer testing, improving, and populating with content in anticipation of a beta next year. The attached is a series of screen shots from a Power Point presentation of the demo. Thanks to Quinn Interactive for their timely, high-quality work thus far. Read more about WhatApp? Alpha (Preview)

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