Distinguished Lecture

Social-Digital Vulnerability

Wednesday, January 17, 2024
12:10 pm to 1:30 pm

Ryan Calo

Social-Digital Vulnerability — Ryan Calo (January 17, 2024)

Social-Digital Vulnerability — Ryan Calo (January 17, 2024)

This talk describes the phenomenon of socio-digital vulnerability (SDV). SDV refers to the susceptibility of individuals and groups within mediated environments to decisional, social, or constitutive interference.

Drawing from work in law and design, Professor Calo uses dark patterns, robots, generative artificial intelligence, and other examples to evidence the problem of SDV. He argues that vulnerability in mediated environments is best understood in context, rather than as a binary. And he suggests policy frameworks that go behind harm mitigation to address the power imbalances that underpin SDV.

This talk draws from co-authored work with MIT Media Lab social roboticist Daniella DiPaola.


Ryan Calo is the Lane Powell and D. Wayne Gittinger Professor at the University of Washington School of Law and holds a joint appointment in the Information School and a courtesy appointment in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. He is a founding co-director (with Batya Friedman and Tadayoshi Kohno) of the interdisciplinary UW Tech Policy Lab and a co-founder (with Chris Coward, Emma Spiro, Kate Starbird, and Jevin West) of the UW Center for an Informed Public.

Professor Calo’s research on law and emerging technology appears in leading law reviews (California Law Review, University of Chicago Law Review, and Columbia Law Review) and technical publications (MIT Press, Nature, Artificial Intelligence) and is frequently referenced by the national media. His work has been translated into at least four languages. Professor Calo has testified before the German parliament, the California Little Hoover Commission, and the full Judiciary and Commerce Committees of the United States Senate. He has organized events on behalf of the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Obama White House. He has been a speaker at President Obama’s Frontiers Conference, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and NPR’s Weekend in Washington.

Professor Calo is a board member of the R Street Institute and an affiliate scholar at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society (CIS), where he was a research fellow, and the Yale Law School Information Society Project (ISP). He serves on numerous advisory boards and steering committees, including University of California’s People and Robots Initiative, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Without My Consent, the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, and the Future of Privacy Forum. In 2011, Professor Calo co-founded the annual robotics law and policy conference We Robot with Michael Froomkin and Ian Kerr.

Professor Calo worked as an associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Covington & Burling LLP and clerked for the Honorable R. Guy Cole, the chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Prior to law school at the University of Michigan, Professor Calo investigated allegations of police misconduct in New York City. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Dartmouth College.

Professor Calo won the Phillip A. Trautman 1L Professor of the Year Award in 2014 and 2017 and was awarded the Washington Law Review Faculty Award in 2019.

Last updated:

February 5, 2024