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I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Publication Date: 
April 29, 2010
Paul Ohm

Residential fellow at the Center for Internet & Society, Ryan Calo's article People Can Be So Fake: A New Dimension to Privacy and Technology Scholarship is reviewed in this blog post. Lauren Gelman's scholarship on "blurry-edged" boundaries is also mentioned:

To glimpse the future of information privacy law, you should look at the work coming out of two Stanford Law School centers, the Center for Internet and Society and the CodeX center. In the past few years, these centers have housed a steady stream of fellows and clinical professors who have written some of the most interesting, vibrant, and future-looking scholarship in this field. For example, Lauren Gelman’s article on “blurry-edged” boundaries [2]—already lauded in these pages [3]—is a significant contribution, one that has advanced our understanding of the complicated relationship between social networks and privacy. Another excellent example is Structural Rights in Privacy [4], written by Harry Surden—now my colleague at the University of Colorado—during his stint as a fellow at CodeX, about how technology sometimes protects privacy in ways we fail to appreciate until the technology changes. I write now to focus on another scholar in the Stanford centers, Ryan Calo, who has embarked on a fascinating project with an excellent article, People Can Be So Fake: A New Dimension to Privacy and Technology Scholarship [1], forthcoming in the Penn State Law Review.

Calo focuses on “technologies designed to emulate people,” such as robots with expressive eyes or software assistants designed to look like people. We’ve come a long way since Microsoft’s Clippy the paperclip first annoyingly noticed that it looked like I was writing a letter. Computer scientists, roboticists, and companies have poured time and creative energy into designing interfaces and devices that look and act human, and they’ve made great strides in the process. To document these advances, Calo cites with care a rich, emerging, technical literature, importing dozens of studies and papers into law, saving the rest of us a lot of heavy research lifting.