Category Archives: Talks & Conferences

Freedom of Expression Scholars Conference

I’m in New Haven for the Freedom of Expression Scholars Conference, which uses the wonderful workshop format we adopted for We Robot. The author of the paper being workshopped doesn’t present – the discussant starts by summarizing the paper, which all the attendees are presumed to have read. The author gives a brief response, and it is off to the races.

I’m in the usually unenviable first-thing-Sunday morning slot, the one where you compete with exhaustion (and hangovers) but I actually think that at FESC first-on-Sunday is better than last-on-Saturday, as there is a very very long program.

I am not a core first amendment scholar, not at all, although my work on anonymity obviously intersects, which is why I’m here. It’s very interesting to see the things that concern people who focus on the First Amendment these days; it’s a very different set of concerns from what there was say ten years ago. I learned a lot from reading the papers (or, rather, the fraction of the papers for the sessions I plan to go to – there are three parallel ones in most time slots). Plus I get to meet a lot of new people, more than I do at Internetty events, maybe even more than robotty events now that I’ve been to a bunch of them.

It’s always slightly odd to be back in New Haven, where I spent first four and then later three years. The city is much more cheerful (it helps that its Spring, while memory has a strong overlay of February). There’s been a great deal of turnover in the shops, with many of the small places I liked gone, and a number of chain rather chichi clothing and such shops replacing them. A mixed blessing at best.

And, coming from Miami, almost everyone on the street looks a bit pale.

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The Rise of Robot Governance

With R2D2's Creatornet.wars: Multiplicity has the best write-up of We Robot 2015 that I’ve seen yet.

My favorite quote:

[David] Post led the discussion to broader questions: if you’re going to intervene in the development of new norms and law, when do you do it? How do you do it while remaining flexible enough to allow the technology to develop? Particularly with respect to privacy and teens’ willingness to share information in a way that scares their elders, “Could we have had that conversation in 1983?”

This is the heart of We Robot: the co-chairs, Michael Froomkin and Ryan Calo run the conference precisely to try to get ahead of prospective conflicts. So Froomkin’s answer to Post’s question was to note that being “in the room” matters. Had “just one lawyer” been present when engineers were creating the domain name system its design could have been different because that lawyer would have spotted the issues we have been grappling with ever since. “People with different backgrounds and perspectives spot problems,” he said, “and also solutions.” And, he added, those changes are easier at the beginning, when there’s less deployment and less money invested.

And yes, as I said at the conference, one of the main things I’ve learned from 15+ years of Internet policy research is that ‘Who is in the room’ when decisions are made is about as important as anything else.

(The photo is of Tony Dyson, the designer of the original R2D2 (top left), and two other happy happy conference-goers.)

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We Robot 2016 Official Logo

We-Robot-2016-web-Banner

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Save the Dates: Next We Robot April 1-2, 2016

We Robot 2016 Small sizeIt seems to get better every year.

But we’ll have a tough act to follow after the success of the 2015 edition!

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Me and My Friend at We Robot 2015

R2D2

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We Robot!

cropped-werobot-webheaderI’m at We Robot 2015, aka the 4th Annual Conference on Robotics, Law & Policy at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, WA.

There’s a tremendous list of papers, and tonight we have a special presentation from Tony Dyson — the man who built R2-D2 for “Star Wars,” oversaw special effects for “The Empire Strikes Back” and builds robots for the world’s largest electronics companies.

It’s going to be great.

Plus, mark your calendar for next year: We Robot 2016 will be back at the University of Miami on April 1 & 2, 2016.

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AALS Android App Wants Ridiculous Number of Permsissons

How many permissions does a meeting app need?

The American Association of Law Schools has an Android app to help guide the perplexed through the giant list of events that is its 2015 annual meeting.

The app seems to want a ridiculous number of permissions and I decided not to install it:

Version 1.0.0 can access:

  • Device & app history
    • retrieve running apps
  • Identity
    • find accounts on the device
    • add or remove accounts
  • Calendar
    • add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners’ knowledge
    • read calendar events plus confidential information
  • Contacts
    • read your contacts
    • modify your contacts
  • Location
    • precise location (GPS and network-based)
    • approximate location (network-based)
  • Phone
    • directly call phone numbers
  • Photos/Media/Files
    • modify or delete the contents of your USB storage
    • test access to protected storage
  • Camera
    • take pictures and videos
  • Device ID & call information
    • read phone status and identity
  • Other
    • receive data from Internet
    • pair with Bluetooth devices
    • access Bluetooth settings
    • full network access
    • view network connections
    • control vibration
    • prevent device from sleeping
    • run at startup
    • use accounts on the device
    • send sticky broadcast
    • delete all app cache data

Not to mention that “Updates to AALS2015 may automatically add additional capabilities within each group.”

I’m disappointed that the AALS hasn’t offered an app that is more sensitive to the privacy interests of attendees. What possible functionality does it offer that needs all this?

There is also an iPhone version – no idea if it’s better behaved.

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