AI and the Law Series: Robots in Public Spaces: Privacy & Design

Robots in Public Spaces: Privacy & Design

Robots are an increasingly common feature in North American public spaces. From regulations permitting broader drone use in public airspace over public and private lands; to delivery robots roaming sidewalks in some major U.S. cities; to the recent announcement of Sidewalk Toronto – a partnership between Alphabet Inc. and the City of Toronto to convert waterfront space in one of North America’s largest cities into a robotics-filled smart community – the laws regulating North American public spaces are opening up to robots.

In many of these examples, the growing presence of robots in public space is associated with opportunities to improve human lives through intelligent urban design, environmental efficiency, and greater transportation accessibility. However, the introduction of robots in public has also raised concerns about, for example, the commercialization of these spaces by the companies that deploy robots; increasing surveillance that will negatively impact physical and data privacy; or the potential exclusion of vulnerable members of society in favour of those who can pay to access, use or support the new technologies available in these spaces.

This presentation considers what the growing presence of robots in public space means for the human experience of these spaces generally, and for privacy within these spaces more specifically. Ultimately, this presentation considers the impact of both robots, and the laws regulating robots, on the ‘public’ nature of public space. It concludes by suggesting that the introduction of robotics into spaces designated as ‘public’ should only take place where the technology can enhance, and not where it undermines, equitable access to and use of physical public spaces.

ABOUT OUR SPEAKER

Kristen Thomasen is an Assistant Professor of Law, Robotics & Society at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law. She is completing her PhD in Law on the topic of drones and privacy in public at the University of Ottawa, where she is under the supervision of Dr. Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology. Her doctoral work received a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship. Kristen researches and writes about the legal, social and ethical implications of robotic and autonomous machines, and she teaches Robotics Law & Policy at the University of Windsor. Prior to starting her Ph.D., Kristen clerked for the Honourable Madam Justice Rosalie Abella at the Supreme Court of Canada. She also clerked for the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Kristen is a member of the Law Society of Alberta. You can follow her on Twitter @KristenThomasen and find more at www.KristenThomasen.com.

This content has been updated on January 25, 2019 at 10:27.

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