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Faculty News and Scholarship

  • - Science As robots take on societal roles that were once the province of humans, they are creating new legal dilemmas. (10/20/14)
  • - The Washington Post My prediction is that in fewer than 15 years, we will be debating whether human beings should be allowed to drive on highways. After all, we are prone to road rage; rush headlong into traffic jams; break rules; get distracted; and crash into each other. That is why our automobiles need tank-like bumper bars and military-grade crumple zones. And it is why we need speed limits and traffic police. Self-driving cars won’t have our limitations. They will prevent tens of thousands of fatalities every year and better our lifestyles. They will do to human drivers what the horseless carriage did to the horse and buggy. (10/14/14)
  • - USA Today Let's talk robots. Not science fiction film plots, '80s dance moves or frenetic 'they're stealing our jobs' narratives intending to draw upon readers' deep-seated anxieties -- but the realistic capabilities of robots and the influence of robotic technologies on the American workforce. (10/13/14)
  • - Buzzfeed A DEA agent commandeered a woman’s identity, created a phony Facebook account in her name, and posted racy photos he found on her seized cell phone. The government said he had the right to do that. Update: Facebook has removed the page and the Justice Department said it is reviewing the incident. (10/6/14)
  • - Bloomberg
    Jesse Busk spent a 12-hour shift rushing inventory through an Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) warehouse in Nevada to meet quotas. His day wasn’t over, though. After clocking out, Busk and hundreds of other workers went through an airport-style screening process, including metal detectors, to make sure they weren’t stealing from the Web retailer. Getting through the line often took as long as 25 minutes, uncompensated, he and others employed there say. “They did it on my time,” Busk, 37, of Henderson, Nevada, said in an interview. “If people are stuck in your building and they’re not allowed to leave, why don’t you go ahead and pay them?”

    Those allegations are now before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that could help redefine companies’ reach over hourly workers. On Wednesday, the top court will hear arguments related to a suit brought by Busk seeking compensation for his time in the security lines.
  • - Slate Are robot babysitters ethical? Will the future of the Internet look like You’ve Got Mail? How can we use science fiction to inspire scientists?   (10/3/14)
  • - USA Today
    Facebook said Thursday that it will tighten oversight of research on "deeply personal topics" or that targets specific groups of people.
    But it did not say whether it would get consent from users before conducting research on them, nor is it clear what standards or guidelines researchers will adhere to. Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law, said Facebook is taking a step in the right direction.
  • - The New York Times Facebook said on Thursday that future research on its 1.3 billion users would be subjected to greater internal scrutiny from top managers, particularly if it focused on “deeply personal topics” or specific groups of people. “This is a company whose lifeblood is consumer data. So mistrust by the public, were it to reach too critical a point, would pose an existential threat to the company,” said Ryan Calo, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law, who had urged Facebook to create a review panel for research. “Facebook needs to reassure its users they can trust them.” (10/2/14)
  • - Forbes
    The pin-up page for the 2015 Corvette brags about the car’s many features, including its “industry-exclusive Performance Data Recorder,” which is like a Fitbit for the owners’ driving, collecting stats about a particular drive as well as audio and video. And there’s a bonus feature to the recorder, according to Chevrolet’s website: a “nanny cam.” “You can even capture video and data when someone else is driving the car with Valet Mode, giving you extra peace of mind.”
    Not exactly. Depending on which state the valet is, it might give the Corvette owner a criminal mind. While engineers may have thought a “baby monitor” for the car was a great idea, lawyers apparently didn’t review the surreptitious recording feature closely. Last week, as first reported on Corvette Forum, car parent company GM sent out notices to dealerships and to new Corvette owners warning them not to use the feature, because it’s a wee bit illegal in some states to record someone’s expletives about how awesome driving your car is without their consent.
  • - New Hampshire Public Radio Professor Ryan Calo speaks to New Hampshire Public Radio about his Brookings Institute paper, The Case for A Robotics Commission.  (9/28/14)
  • - Ars Technica
    Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, who has studied drone law, told Ars that the government shouldn't impose a double standard.
    "I'll say this: the government should not have a monopoly on drones, banning the use by the press and others while retaining the right themselves," he said. "This is an important technology and there needs to be symmetry."
  • - Forbes While inferring what we want can save us time, make it easier for us to accomplish goals, and expedite finding things we expect will bring us pleasure, predictive technology also can create problems. Privacy scholars like Ryan Calo note that if marketers can use big data to predict when we’re susceptible to lowering our guard, they can capitalize on our vulnerabilities. A related concern was expressed when Facebook ran it’s infamous emotion contagion experiment. If social media companies can predict, with ever-finer precision, what makes users eager to engage with their platforms, they can design features that will manipulate us accordingly. (9/27/14)
  • - Slate
    On Thursday, the Australian Senate passed a bill that would increase the powers of domestic spy agency ASIO, giving it the ability to monitor all of the Australian Internet with a single warrant. It could also send anyone who “recklessly” discloses information that “relates to a special intelligence operation” to jail for up to 10 years. (Any operation can be considered special.) The bill is expected to pass the House, where it will be up for a vote on Tuesday at the earliest.
    The law will, if passed, dramatically increase the government’s powers of surveillance, but despite Abbott's reference to a "shift," it’s not necessarily inconsistent with existing Australian policy. Ryan Calo, assistant professor of the University Washington School of Law and author of a Brookings report on why the United States needs a federal robotics commission, pointed to Australia as a country with a more deliberate, and more consistently permissive, policy toward drones, surveillance drones included.
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