Press release:

Open Lecture: Robots, Privacy, and Society on May 23
Ryan Calo from Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society to offer legal perspective

SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA—May 8, 2012—The Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly today announced the next talk in its Technology, Policy & Ethics Lecture Series. On Wednesday, May 23, Ryan Calo will speak about robots, drones, and society at the University Union’s Chumash Auditorium, center stage (UU building 65, room 205), at Cal Poly. The lecture, followed by a discussion period, is open to the public and will be held from 10 am to 12 noon.

Robots—sometimes called drones—have been making headlines for years on the battlefield, but now they're starting to make an impact on society at large. Their surveillance roles in law enforcement and by others, from paparazzi to activists, are raising concerns about whether existing laws are enough to safeguard our civil liberties.

“It is not hard to imagine why robots raise privacy concerns,” explained Calo, the director of privacy and robotics research at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. “Practically by definition, robots are equipped with the ability to sense, process, and record the world around them. Robots can go places humans cannot go, see things humans cannot see.”

As society and business embrace robotics—an industry that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates predicts will see explosive growth, just as the computer industry had 30 years ago—solving the legal and ethical issues associated with the use of robots will be important for industry growth. Calo added, “My talk at Cal Poly will explore the various ways that robots implicate privacy and why, absent conscientious legal and design interventions, we may never realize the potential of this transformative technology.”

Calo’s work has appeared in the New York Times, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, and other news outlets. He serves on several advisory and program committees, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Future of Privacy Forum, the Mozilla Legal Advisory Board, and National Robotics Week. He also co-chairs the American Bar Association Committee on Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. Prior to joining the law school in 2008, Calo was an associate at Covington & Burling, LLP, where he advised companies on issues of data security, privacy, and telecommunications.

This talk is sponsored by Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts’ Lottery Speakers Fund, the Philosophy Department, and the Orfalea College of Business. For more information, please visit our Technology, Policy & Ethics Lecture Series page.

Based at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group is a non-partisan research and educational organization focused on the risk, ethical, and social impacts of emerging technologies. Current projects and interests are related to issues in robotics, human enhancement, nanotechnology, space development, geoengineering, and other areas. Please visit us at or


Patrick Lin, Ph.D., Director
palin [at]

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