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Ryan Calo
Ryan Calo

University of Washington Law School

When (ET)


Socio-Digital Vulnerability


Social technologies such as chat, smart speakers, and personal robots highlight the growing concern and nuance around the safety and privacy of vulnerable populations in mediated environments. In this paper, we first critique the way law treats vulnerability as binary or status based. Next, drawing from various phenomena and literature such as dark patterns, digital market manipulation, and computers as social actors, we develop a theory of socio-digital vulnerability. Socio-digital vulnerability refers to the susceptibility of individuals and groups within mediated environments to decisional, social, or constitutive interference. Finally, we suggest policy frameworks to address socio-digital vulnerability that specifically address power imbalance rather than merely remediate harm.


Ryan Calo is the Lane Powell and D. Wayne Gittinger Professor at the University of Washington School of Law. 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 holds a joint appointment at the Information School and an adjunct appointment at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering.

Professor Calo’s research on law and emerging technology appears in leading law reviews (California Law Review, Columbia Law Review, Duke Law Journal, UCLA Law Review, and University of Chicago 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 three times before the United States Senate and 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.

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