Ryan Calo

Photo of Ryan  Calo
Assistant Professor of Law

Phone: (206) 543-1580
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Curriculum Vitae | SSRN author page



  • - Business Insider
    Ryan Calo, assistant professor of law at the University of Washington with an eye on robot ethics and policy, does not see a machine uprising ever happening: “Based on what I read, and on conversations I have had with a wide variety of roboticists and computer scientists, I do not believe machines will surpass human intelligence — in the sense of achieving ‘strong’ or ‘general’ AI — in the foreseeable future. Even if processing power continues to advance,we would need an achievement in software on par with the work of Mozart to reproduce consciousness.”
     
    Calo adds, however, that we should watch for warnings leading up to a potential singularity moment. If we see robots become more multipurpose and contextually aware then they may then be “on their way to strong AI,” says Calo. That will be a tip that they’re advancing to the point of danger for humans.
    (7/18/14)
  • - Wired How the legal system would deal with child-like sex robots isn’t entirely clear, according to Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that simulated child pornography (in which young adults or computer generated characters play the parts of children) is protected by the First Amendment and can’t be criminalized. “I could see that extending to embodied [robotic] children, but I can also see courts and regulators getting really upset about that,” Calo said. (7/17/14)
  • - Forbes If an entrepreneur started up KidSexBots-R-Us, would it be legal? Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, thinks it might be, based on the Supreme Court’s treatment of child pornography. “What appears to be child porn, but isn’t, is not illegal,” said Calo. Making or possessing child pornography results in severe legal penalties; those who watch child porn sometimes get longer sentences than people convicted of actually molesting children. However, in 2002, the Supreme Court drew a line between child porn and “virtual child porn” where the “child” is actually a young-looking adult or a computer-rendered image. It said images that are wholly faked, no matter how realistic they were, are legal. So the law might see sex with a “virtual child” the same way. At least in the U.S. (7/14/14)
  • - NBC News
    Ryan Calo, a drone expert and assistant professor of law the University of Washington, thinks the drones can be effective, but worries about how they might be used in the future after reports of them being rented out to agencies like the FBI and local sheriff's departments.
     
    "Once you have drones for this one purpose, you could start to use them more often domestically, and then they become part of an ever more militarized police force," he told NBC News. "That is a trend to be concerned about."
    (7/13/14)
  • - Forbes Ryan Calo, an academic at the University of Washington, was writing about corporate lab rats even before it became a hot topic of conversation. “It’s about information asymmetry,” he says. “A company has all this information about the consumer, the ability to design every aspect of the interaction and an economic incentive to extract as much value as possible. And that makes consumers nervous.” (7/10/14)
  • - Robotics Business Review
    It only lasted for two minutes and thirteen seconds (watch it for yourself below), but Ryan Calo’s “Big Idea” at this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado is here to stay for a long, long time.
     
    What Calo said wasn’t overly profound; such things are difficult to pull off in two minutes—unless you’re Abe Lincoln, Shakespeare, or a Biblical prophet.
     
     
    Rather, he was making the kind of common sense that makes audiences nod in surprise agreement and then turn to one another and nod again, which in itself is a kind of profound reaction for an idea from a law professor from Seattle. But, this was Ryan Calo, and he has a habit of getting audiences to react to his ideas in that way.
    (7/8/14)
  • - Business Insider Ryan Calo, assistant professor of law at the University of Washington (and one of Business Insider's most important people in robotics), believes that robotic technology is advancing so rapidly with such heavyweight implications that the current structure of the US government will be ill-equipped to handle it, reports The Atlantic. (7/7/14)
  • - Marketplace Tech First up, Ryan Calo, Associate Law Professor at the University of Washington and an affiliate scholar at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, talks about why companies like Facebook should be thinking about the ethics of information and consumer research. (7/7/14)
  • - Venture Beat
    University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo has recommended the creation of “Consumer Subject Review Boards”, which review the research of private companies. It’s akin to the Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) already standard at every major university.
     
    I met Professor Calo last week at the Atlantic Aspen Ideas festival; he later wrote to me, “I think Facebook would have fared better under this regime because they would have had a set of established criteria as well as a record of when and why it was approved.
    (7/5/14)
  • - The Seattle Times A woman alarmed by a drone flying around her Seattle high rise unknowingly launched a Portland business owner into a futuristic world of drones saddled with confusing policies. Now, Joe Vaughn could face a $10,000 fine for commercially flying his 25-pound drone. (7/5/14)
  • - The New York Times
    Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law who studies technology policy, has called for companies that conduct experiments on their users to create “consumer subject review boards,” a kind of internal ombudsman who would assess each proposed experiment and balance the potential risks to users against the potential rewards.
     
    “There’s enough pressure and understanding of this issue that these firms are going to have to come up with a way to make the public and regulators comfortable with experimenting with consumers,” Mr. Calo said.
    (7/2/14)
  • - Forbes
    When a technology company behaves badly, you hear one defense brought up repeatedly: they could have done so much worse. When Google decided that they would use your face in their advertisements, you shouldn’t have been outraged, you should have been relieved they didn’t tell everyone your darkest secrets. The message is, given what they know about you, you should be grateful that they treat you as well as they do.
     
    Meanwhile, there is an arms race to delve deeper into your personal information to make it actionable. While the last ten years were focused on how to collect as much information as possible, the next will be focused on how to turn that information into action. Legal scholar Ryan Calo argues that we need to watch out for “digital market manipulation” here – where companies use your background, details, and emotional state to coerce you into buying products you don’t need or paying higher prices than you normally would. He’s got a point; knowing and influencing your emotional state can be a major advantage in getting your attention, a factor that influenced Facebook to undertake this study in the first place.
    (7/2/14)
  • - Slate
    The government plans to use facial recognition and iris scanning to foreigners’ visa status as they’re leaving the United States, according to Nextgov. At a new biometric testing center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, government officials will spend the next eight to 12 months working on the technology and its application for its premiere in 10 major airports by 2015.
     
    Ryan Calo, assistant professor of law at the University of Washington and a privacy expert, told me that he’s concerned with how facial recognition technology could judge the mental state of exiting passengers. “What I worry about with biometrics is the capacity to tell things like: Is this person nervous? Are they lying? … I worry about too closely studying human subjects at the borders, in or out,” he says. There are currently technologies that can register your emotion using facial recognition, and the new DHS program could include such abilities.
    (7/1/14)
  • - Mashable
    Facebook manipulated the News Feeds of hundreds of thousands of people to see if showing them mostly positive or negative posts affected their emotions. The research ignited anger among users, who accused the company of manipulation in the guise of science. But did Facebook actually break any laws? Mashable talked to law professors to separate fact from fiction. Several factors have to be considered when judging whether Facebook broke any laws. First of all, Facebook's terms of service (which the company calls its Data Use Policy) makes it clear that, when creating an account, a user consents to his or her data being used for "research" — although what kind of research is unclear.
     
    Ryan Calo, a privacy expert and law professor at the University of Washington, told Mashable that the study may be "creepy" but not necessarily in violation of any privacy law.
    (7/1/14)
  • - Forbes This weekend, the Internet discovered a study published earlier this month in an academic journal that recounted how a Facebook data scientist, along with two university researchers, turned 689,003 users’ New Feeds positive or negative to see if it would elate or depress them. The purpose was to find out if emotions are “contagious” on social networks. (They are, apparently.) The justification for subjecting unsuspecting users to the psychological mind game was that everyone who signs up for Facebook agrees to the site’s “Data Use Policy,” which has a little line about how your information could be used for “research.”  (6/29/14)
  • - The Atlantic Law professor Ryan Calo believes that robots are soon going to constitute a more abrupt departure from the technologies that preceded them than did the Internet from personal computers and telephones. Robotic technology is changing so fast, with such significant implications, that he believes the federal government is ill equipped to regulate the society we'll soon be living in. Hence his Friday pitch to an Aspen Ideas Festival crowd: a new federal agency to regulate robots. (6/28/14)
  • - The Wall Street Journal It’s a confusing time for those deciding whether to take a chance on law school. The odds of a law-school graduate landing a job at a large law firm have improved since the recession days, but the total number of available positions is still far lower than it was four years ago, as WSJ’s Jennifer Smith reported this week. (6/27/14)
  • - The New York Times
    Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law who specializes in robotics and drones, told me that the worry about drones colliding in the air, or people being hit by them, will start to ease as drones become smarter.
     
    “The next generation of drones, which are truly autonomous and can navigate using sensors and code, rather than people controlling them, will be much safer than the drones we’re seeing today,” Mr. Calo said in a phone interview.
     
    As Mr. Calo and others have pointed out, it is unlikely that drones will be permanently banned for commercial services in the United States. It’s only a matter of time before these vehicles are safe enough and powerful enough to deliver packages.
    (6/25/14)
  • - The New York Times
    But Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law, who specializes in robotics and drones, said the accidents that were occurring from private use of drones would become less common as the vehicles became safer and more autonomous. For now, fly with caution.
     
    “From a product liability standpoint, it’s pretty straightforward,” he said. “You buy this thing, you fly it, it’s likely your fault if something goes wrong.”
    (6/25/14)
  • - Business Insider
    Laws has to keep up with new technologies, and Ryan Calo has his eye on robot legalities, particularly with respect to policy and ethics.
     
    For example, Calo was quoted in this New York Times piece titled "When Driverless Cars Break The Law." Spoiler alert: it's complicated. "Criminal law is going to be looking for a guilty mind, a particular mental state — should this person have known better? If you’re not driving the car, it’s going to be difficult," he said.
     
    We need someone to think ahead towards what we haven't thought about yet, and Calo is so far the guy when it comes to the intersection of robots and the law. "Ready or not, robots are racing into our lives," he told the Wall Street Journal. "But for most people, the first time they’re going to really notice those robots...is when the systems go bad."
     
    (6/23/14)
  • - Wired
    License plate-derived intelligence is not new. Governmental agencies and law enforcement can easily collect license plates and link them to their owners to glean information about where and how we drive. With DiDi Plate, the threat is that the public would have access to information reserved for government officials, says professor Ryan Calo, a privacy and technology expert at the University of Washington.
     
    “The difference is that it’s in private hands,” he says, “with the opportunity to contact you.”
    (6/20/14)
  • - Geekwire
    A motto of the NSA, as revealed in the documents released by Snowden, is “Collect it all.” Set aside any discussion about when and whether the data collection is justified. When one side has a lot of it, and the other none, there’s a problem. The best argument I’ve heard for this comes from University of Washington professor Ryan Calo, who wrote a paper on the data collection being done by marketers and corporations. In a healthy consumer/marketer relationship, he argues, consumers have tools to resist marketers’ pull. When corporations can collect and exploit vast amounts of consumer data, they can nullify many of those tools, rendering consumers too weak for their own good.
     
    (6/19/14)
  • - KUOW Marcie Sillman talks to University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo about the Federal Aviation Administration's decision to allow BP to use drones in Alaska. (6/11/14)
  • - Marketplace "It was about consumer convenience," says Ryan Calo, a professor of internet and privacy law at the University of Washington. "The idea is that you drop a little file on a person’s computer and then you know them again when you see them." (6/4/14)
  • - Wired It’s quite clear: for most people, the link between government surveillance and freedom is more plainly understood by cars, rather than personal computers. As more and more objects become connected to the Internet these questions will grow in importance.And cars in particular might become, as Ryan Calo puts it in a 2011 article on drones, “a privacy catalyst”; an object giving us an opportunity to drag our privacy laws into the 21st century; an object that restores our mental model of what a privacy violation is. (5/30/14)
  • - IEEE Spectrum
    S.K. Gupta, a roboticist at the University of Maryland College, notes that cellphones were invented for people to talk, but we have found many new uses for them. “I believe that the same thing is likely to happen for home robots. Initially people will be interested in getting robots at home to help with basic household chores, but soon they will find new uses for these robots.”
     
    For this to come about, companies making domestic robots will have to give up control in the name of openness. How soon that will happen is unclear, though. A big impediment, argues Ryan Calo, a professor of law at the University of Washington, is the possible legal liability such openness would engender. People have come to expect their personal computers to sometimes act a bit buggy with third-party software, and as a consequence lawsuits are rare. But if personal robots ever went haywire, it’s likely that their owners would sue the manufacturer for damages.
    (5/29/14)
  • - Le Monde En tendant l'oreille, on pourrait presque entendre leur bourdonnement. Des drones civils surveillent déjà les lignes de la SNCF, nourrissent les reportages télévisés, captent les souvenirs des randonneurs, repèrent les déperditions de chaleur des habitations et, demain peut-être, livreront à domicile livres ou pizzas. (5/22/14)
  • - The New York Times
    There is little doubt that the technology behind driverless cars is nearly advanced enough for mainstream use. Google plans to make its biggest public display yet of its cars on Tuesday, when it takes reporters on spins around Mountain View, Calif. Carmakers like BMW and Toyota are also preparing to sell cars that drive themselves.
     
    Instead, the bigger question about driverless cars is a legal one. Who is responsible when something goes wrong?
    (5/13/14)
  • - Live Science When Raphael Pirker needed overhead shots for a commercial he was filming at the University of Virginia, instead of spending thousands of dollars to rent a helicopter, he attached a camera to a 5-lb. (2.3 kilograms) model airplane, creating a custom drone to capture high-flying aerial views of the campus. A year earlier, the 29-year-old photographer piloted a similar drone around the Statue of Liberty in New York, buzzing the monument's iconic crown and recording stunning close-up views of Liberty Island and downtown Manhattan. Drones have been used by the military for decades, but Pirker's videos offer a glimpse of just one possible way these robotic fliers could be used in the future.  (5/1/14)
  • - Ars Technica
    As such, robots are also affecting our society, law, and culture. At the 2014 “We Robot” Conference at the University of Miami that just wrapped up (April 4 to 5, 2014), scholars gathered to discuss a number of legal, ethical, and moral questions related to emerging robotic technologies. Conference topics ranged from considerations of regulatory schemes for domestic drone oversight to an ethical guide to human/robot interactions.
     
    At the conference, cyberlaw professor Ryan Calo discussed his forthcoming paper "Robotics and the New Cyberlaw." Internet law defined the vanguard of cyberlaw issues in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but Calo argues that the next wave of legal showdowns will relate to robotics, which have an altogether different set of essential qualities when compared with the Internet.
    (4/7/14)
  • - NBC News
    In the United States, someone injured by a small drone would have a strong case against the person remotely flying it, even if the injured party was simply startled by the drone and fell down, Ryan Calo, an assistant professor of law at the University of Washington, told NBC News.
     
    It’s not that different from lawsuits involving any other product. The story might be different, however, if the drone was hacked.
     
    “Then the person who hacked the drone would be responsible, not the operator,” Calo said. “The person flying it could be off the hook then. But it would be the operator’s obligation to prove it.”
    (4/7/14)
  • - C-SPAN
    Law Professor Ryan Calo presented his paper on the intersection of robotics and cyberlaw and what the future may hold for the two disciplines. He was joined in discussion by Professor David Post.
     
    “Robotics and the New Cyberlaw” was a panel of “We Robot 2014,” an annual conference on legal and policy issues relating to robotics hosted by the University of Miami Law School at the Newman Alumni Centerin Coral Gables, Florida.
    (4/5/14)
  • - Los Angeles Times The Federal Trade Commission and California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris say that Facebook is misinterpreting how a children’s privacy law applies to teen privacy in a move that could undercut the giant social network in a federal court case in California. University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo said it was unclear what effect the FTC and the attorney general weighing in would have on the case. (3/24/14)
  • - NPR All Things Considered
    Imagine using image recognition when a drone is flying in the air and matching faces against faces on a kill list, he suggests. If a robot like that made a mistake, who would be responsible? The programmer? The manufacturer? The military commander who launched it on its mission?
     
    "It forces us to confront whether we really control machines," says Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington. Calo says these tensions won't just play out in the military, but will crop up whenever we are tempted to allow robots to make decisions on their own.
    (3/21/14)
  • - Los Angeles Times “If you want to surreptitiously record someone, there are much better things than Glass,” University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo said. “The reason that this is elevated to a national conversation is precisely because we are moving from handheld to wearable devices, and this is part of the growing pains we are seeing around that.” (3/18/14)
  • - Forbes “The judge noted in passing that the FAA’s public communication around defining UAS [unmanned air systems] was technically defective. He didn’t rely on this alleged defect—rather, he said even in talking about UAS, the FAA excluded modelers like Pirker again,” says drone law expert Ryan Calo. “Obviously some drones are subject to FAA regulation. Delta wouldn’t be able to remove pilots from its 747 and suddenly be free of FAA regulation. I imagine something like a Predator B would also clearly qualify as an aircraft without additional FAA regulation. The question is where the line is. I think would-be commercial operators like Amazon or Tacocopter should hold off both because the law is uncertain.” (3/17/14)
  • - Los Angeles Times A confrontation at a San Francisco bar involving a Google Glass tester points to the public's growing concern over the invasive nature of new technologies such as wearable gadgets and drones. (2/28/14)
  • - NPR All Things Considered
    Social media monitoring started in the world of marketing, allowing companies to track what people were saying about their brands. But now, with software that allows users to scan huge volumes of public postings on social media, police are starting to embrace it as well. Ryan Calo, a professor at the University of Washington law school who specializes in privacy issues, says police could run into trouble searching on the Internet.
     
    "If officers were [scanning social media] on the basis of gender and then making decisions on that basis, you could run into constitutional scrutiny," Calo says. "And you'd be almost sure to if your keyword involved the word 'Muslim.' "
    (2/28/14)
  • - Public Radio International
    As companies gather more digital data about potential customers, they have the ability to use that information to charge different prices to different users or steer different users to different offers.
     
    Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, calls this the “mass production of bias,” in which companies use personal data to exploit people’s vulnerability.
    (2/28/14)
  • - Forbes
    Imagine that you are halfway through the second week of a grueling diet. It’s been going alright – but lunches are always the hardest for you. You walk out of your office building to get a salad, when suddenly, you get a text message. It’s from a nearby restaurant offering you a discount on your favorite burger, encouraging you to “cheat just this once” and they’ll throw in a free side of fries. Somehow the company behind the advertisement knew what foods you like, when you’d be craving them, how much you’d be willing to pay, and the pitch most likely to get you through their doors.
     
    This is just one example of what advertising might look like in the very near future as described in a thought-provoking report on “digital market manipulation” by legal scholar Ryan Calo.
    (1/31/14)
  • - The New York Times The Super Bowl remains the biggest mass-market advertising event in the country. But this year, a new kind of advertising — personalized and based on physical location down to a matter of feet — will greet fans in Times Square and MetLife Stadium, where this weekend’s championship game will be played. (1/30/14)
  • - Wall Street Journal Businesses are tracking their customers and building profiles of their daily habits using a network of startups that have placed sensors in restaurants, yoga studios and other sites around Toronto. (1/15/14)
  • - CNN As drones become more mainstream, the prospect of excessive surveillance and other dangers loom. (12/17/13)
  • - Washington Post Amazon will have to convince federal regulators that the technology is safe and that it wouldn't lead to excessive congestion. "If what Amazon proposes doesn't feel safe, the FAA could get worried about the prospect of these things falling out of the sky," Calo said. (12/2/13)
  • - Forbes Calo argues that while law school may not be for everyone, it still can lead to good career opportunities. (12/2/13)
  • - Boston Globe Laws that require guns to be stored in locked safes are designed to help improve gun safety but difficult to enforce. (11/18/13)
  • - CBC A Canadian law professor cites Calo's work  in this Canadian Broadcasting Company radio interview.  
    (11/7/13)
  • - Seattle Times Professor Ryan Calor is among the researchers wondering — do companies’ outsized data advantage put the rest of us at a disadvantage? (11/4/13)
  • - CNN

    "Drones make surveillance cheaper and easier, and when you do that, you can expect to see a lot more of it," warns Calo.

    (11/4/13)

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