Paul Ohm

Professor of Law

B.S., B.A., Yale; J.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Areas of Expertise:

Communications and Technology Law

Paul Ohm is a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He specializes in information privacy, computer crime law, intellectual property, and criminal...

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Paul Ohm is a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He specializes in information privacy, computer crime law, intellectual property, and criminal procedure. He teaches courses in all of these topics and more and he serves as a faculty director for the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown.

In his work, Professor Ohm tries to build new interdisciplinary bridges between law and computer science. Much of his scholarship focuses on how evolving technology disrupts individual privacy. His articleBroken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization, 57 UCLA Law Review 1701, has sparked an international debate about the need to reshape dramatically the way we regulate privacy. He is commonly cited and quoted by news organizations including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

Professor Ohm began his academic career on the faculty of the University of Colorado Law School, where he also served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Faculty Director for the Silicon Flatirons Center. From 2012 to 2013, Professor Ohm served as Senior Policy Advisor to the Federal Trade Commission. Before becoming a professor, he served as an Honors Program trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. Before that, he clerked for Judge Betty Fletcher of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Mariana Pfaelzer of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. He is a graduate of the UCLA School of Law.

Before attending law school, Professor Ohm worked for several years as a computer programmer and network systems administrator after earning undergraduate degrees in computer science and electrical engineering from Yale University. Today he continues to write thousands of lines of python and perl code each year. Professor Ohm blogs at Freedom to Tinker.

Research Agenda

Professor Ohm writes at the intersection of computer science and law, attempting to bridge the two disciplines with rigor.

Current projects include:

  1. Privacy: Developing privacy-related works-in-progress including:
    • Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization: Arguing that the newly revealed power of reidentification and failure of anonymization should calls into question key tenants of modern information privacy law.
    • ISP Surveillance: Arguing that there is no greater threat to privacy in society than the ISP.
    • Justification Standards: Pointing out the flawed belief in the differences between probable cause and reasonable suspicion.
  2. The Path of Internet Law: Calling for recognition of a new sub-discipline of legal scholarship focusing on the Internet as a dynamic subject and incorporating cutting-edge engineering principles.
  3. Software Regulation Clearing House: Building a web-accessible, searchable database of Federal, State, and International laws and regulations that regulate software development.
  4. Case Law Natural Language Processing: Using machine learning techniques to analyze case law.
  5. Network Measurement Research Privacy Project: Working with Computer Science network researchers to develop rules, technologies, guidance, and processes to better protect the privacy of their research subjects.

Recent and Upcoming Presentations

Ethical and Policy Issues in the Statistical Use of Big Data, American Statistical Association, Joint Statistical Meetings, Boston, MA, August, 2014.

University of San Diego Center for Computation, Mathematics and the Law Inaugural Workshop, San Diego, CA, March 21-22, 2014.

Re-Identification Risk of De-Identified Data Sets in the Era of Big Data, AAAS Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, February 16, 2014.

Workshop on the Social, Economic, and Workforce Implications of Big Data Analytics and Decision Making, NSF, Washington, DC, January 30-31, 2014.

Privacy, Information and Law, at REWIRED: How Law and Technology Shape Social Progress, Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics, University of Oregon, January 22, 2014.

Teaching

Professor Ohm has taught courses in Criminal Procedure, Introduction to Intellectual Property, Copyright, Information Privacy, Quantitative Methods and Computer Crime.


Recent Scholarship

Forthcoming Works and Works in Progress

  • Paul Ohm, The Surveillance Regulation Toolkit: Thinking Beyond Probable Cause, in The Cambridge Handbook of Surveillance Law (David Gray & Stephen Henderson eds., Cambridge University Press forthcoming).   
  • Paul Ohm & Jonathan Frankle, Proof of Work: Learning from Computer Scientific Approaches to Desirable Inefficiency, (working paper).   
  • Paul Ohm, The Silver Lining to Internet Balkanization, UCLA L. Rev. Discourse (forthcoming).   

Book Chapters and Collected Works

  • Paul Ohm, The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: Structure, Controversy, and Proposals for Reform, in Cyber Insecurity: Navigating the Perils of the Next Information Age 123-136 (Richard M. Harrison & Dr. Trey Herr eds., Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield 2016).    [BOOK]
  • Paul Ohm & Scott Peppet, What if Everything Reveals Everything?, in Big Data Is Not a Monolith 45-60 (Cassidy R. Sugimoto, Hamid R. Ekbia & Michael Mattioli eds., Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 2016).   
View all scholarship

All Scholarship 1999 - Present

Forthcoming Works and Works in Progress

  • Paul Ohm, The Surveillance Regulation Toolkit: Thinking Beyond Probable Cause, in The Cambridge Handbook of Surveillance Law (David Gray & Stephen Henderson eds., Cambridge University Press forthcoming).   
  • Paul Ohm & Jonathan Frankle, Proof of Work: Learning from Computer Scientific Approaches to Desirable Inefficiency, (working paper).   
  • Paul Ohm, The Silver Lining to Internet Balkanization, UCLA L. Rev. Discourse (forthcoming).   

Contributions to Law Reviews and Other Scholarly Journals

  • Paul Ohm & Blake Reid, Regulating Software When Everything Has Software, 84 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1672-1702 (2016).    [HEIN] [W] [WWW]
  • Paul Ohm, We Couldn’t Kill the Internet If We Tried, 130 Harv. L. Rev. F. 79-85 (2016).    [HEIN] [W] [WWW]
  • Paul Ohm, Sensitive Information, 88 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1125-1196 (2015).    [HEIN] [W] [SSRN] [WWW]
  • Paul Ohm, The Life of Riley (v. California), 48 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 133-142 (2015).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Response, The Underwhelming Benefits of Big Data, 161 U. Pa. L. Rev. PENNumbra 339-346 (2013).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Branding Privacy, 97 Minn. L. Rev. 907-989 (2013).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Electronic Surveillance Law and the Intra-Agency Separation of Powers, 47 U.S.F. L. Rev. 269-290 (2012).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, The Fourth Amendment in a World Without Privacy, 81 Miss. L.J. 1309-1355 (2012).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Response, Massive Hard Drives, General Warrants, and the Power of Magistrate Judges, 97 Va. L. Rev. In Brief 1-12 (2011).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Breaking Felten’s Third Law: How Not to Fix the Internet, 87 Denv. U. L. Rev. Online 50-54 (2010).    [WWW]
  • Paul Ohm, Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization, 57 UCLA L. Rev. 1701-1777 (2010).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm & James Grimmelmann, Dr. Generative or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPhone, 69 Md. L. Rev. 910-953 (2010) (reviewing Jonathan Zittrain, The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It (2008)).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Probably Probable Cause: The Diminishing Importance of Justification Standards, 94 Minn. L. Rev. 1514-1560 (2010).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, The Argument Against Technology-Neutral Surveillance Laws, 88 Tex. L. Rev. 1685-1713 (2010).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Computer Programming and the Law: A New Research Agenda, 54 Vill. L. Rev. 117-154 (2009).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, The Rise and Fall of Invasive ISP Surveillance, 2009 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1417-1496.    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Good Enough Privacy, 2008 U. Chi. Legal F. 1-63.    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, The Myth of the Superuser: Fear, Risk, and Harm Online, 41 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 1327-1402 (2008).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, The Olmsteadian Seizure Clause: The Fourth Amendment and the Seizure of Intangible Property, 2008 Stan. Tech. L. Rev. 2-59.    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Douglas C. Sicker & Shannon Gunaji, The Analog Hole and the Price of Music: An Empirical Study, 5 J. on Telecomm. & High Tech. L. 573-587 (2007).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, The Fourth Amendment Right to Delete, 119 Harv. L. Rev. F. 10-18 (2005).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, Parallel-Effect Statutes and E-Mail "Warrants": Reframing the Internet Surveillance Debate, 72 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1599-1617 (2004).    [HEIN] [W]
  • Paul Ohm, On Regulating the Internet: Usenet, A Case Study, 46 UCLA L. Rev. 1941-1987 (1999).    [HEIN] [W]

Book Chapters and Collected Works

  • Paul Ohm, The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: Structure, Controversy, and Proposals for Reform, in Cyber Insecurity: Navigating the Perils of the Next Information Age 123-136 (Richard M. Harrison & Dr. Trey Herr eds., Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield 2016).    [BOOK]
  • Paul Ohm & Scott Peppet, What if Everything Reveals Everything?, in Big Data Is Not a Monolith 45-60 (Cassidy R. Sugimoto, Hamid R. Ekbia & Michael Mattioli eds., Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 2016).   
  • Paul Ohm, Changing the Rules: General Principles for Data Use and Analysis, in Privacy, Big Data, and the Public Good: Frameworks for Engagement 96-111 (Julia Lane, Victoria Stodden, Stefan Bender & Helen Nissenbaum eds., New York: Cambridge University Press 2014).    [BOOK]

U.S. Supreme Court Briefs

  • Brief of Amici Curiae Information Privacy Law Scholars in Support of Respondent, Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, No. 13-1339 (U.S. Sept. 4, 2015).   

Congressional Testimony

  • FCC Overreach: Examining the Proposed Privacy Rules: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Commc'n & Tech. of the H. Comm. on Energy & Commerce, 114th Cong., June 14, 2016 (Statement of Paul Ohm) (CIS No.: Pending).    [WWW]
  • How Will the FCC Proposed Privacy Regulations Affect Consumers and Competition?: Hearing Before the S. Comm. on Commerce, Sci., & Transp., 114th Cong., July 12, 2016 (Statement of Paul Ohm) (CIS No.: Pending).    [WWW]

Selected Contributions to Other Publications

  • Paul Ohm, Free for the Taking (or Why Libertarians Are Wrong About Markets for Privacy), JOTWELL, May 26, 2014 (reviewing Katherine J. Strandburg, Free Fall: The Online Market's Consumer Preference Disconnect (NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 13-62, 2013) and Chris Jay Hoofnagle & Jan Whittington, Free: Accounting for the Internet's Most Popular Price, 61 UCLA L. Rev. 606 (2014)).    [WWW]
  • Paul Ohm, Should Sniffing Wi-Fi Be Illegal?, IEEE Sec. & Privacy, Jan./Feb. 2014, at 73-76.   
  • Paul Ohm, The Care and Feeding of Sticky Defaults in Information Privacy Law, JOTWELL, May 20, 2013 (reviewing Lauren Willis, When Nudges Fail: Slippery Defaults, 80 U. Chi. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2013)).    [WWW]
  • Paul Ohm, Cybersecurity Through Information Theory, JOTWELL, May 19, 2011 (reviewing Derek E. Bambauer, Conundrum, 96 Minn. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2012)).    [WWW]
  • Paul Ohm, I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me, JOTWELL, Apr. 29, 2010 (reviewing M. Ryan Calo, People Can Be So Fake: A New Dimension to Privacy and Technology Scholarship, 114 Penn. St. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2010)).    [WWW]
  • Paul Ohm, When Network Neutrality Met Privacy, Comm. ACM, Apr. 2010, at 30-32.    [WWW]
Recent scholarship

In the News

"Learning to think like a computer," coverage by The Bulletin (Bend, Or.), April 19, 2017, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"Twitter case shows breadth of U.S. power to probe anti-Trump statements," coverage by Reuters, April 7, 2017, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"Where Non-Techies Can Get With the Programming," coverage in The New York Times, April 4, 2017, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

"Congress’s vote to eviscerate Internet privacy could give the FBI massive power," an opinion piece by Professor Paul Ohm, in The Washington Post, March 30, 2017. Titled as Marching toward a 'Database of Ruin' in the print and digital edition.

"US Congress Be Eroding Protections Against Genetic Discrimination," coverage by Gizmodo (Australia), March 17, 2017, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

View all News

All News

"Learning to think like a computer," coverage by The Bulletin (Bend, Or.), April 19, 2017, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"Twitter case shows breadth of U.S. power to probe anti-Trump statements," coverage by Reuters, April 7, 2017, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"Where Non-Techies Can Get With the Programming," coverage in The New York Times, April 4, 2017, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

"Congress’s vote to eviscerate Internet privacy could give the FBI massive power," an opinion piece by Professor Paul Ohm, in The Washington Post, March 30, 2017. Titled as Marching toward a 'Database of Ruin' in the print and digital edition.

"US Congress Be Eroding Protections Against Genetic Discrimination," coverage by Gizmodo (Australia), March 17, 2017, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

""Muslim registries", Big Data and Human Rights," an Amnesty International blog, February 27, 2017, referencing a law review by Professor Paul Ohm.

"Privacy groups: 'Serial offender' Google deceived consumers with 2016 policy change," coverage in The Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 2016, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking," coverage by NJ Today, November 16, 2016, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"The FCC’s Important Move for Online Privacy," coverage by the Benton Foundation, October 18, 2016, an opinion piece by Professor Paul Ohm.

"Government lawyers don’t understand the Internet. That’s a problem.The law isn’t keeping up with technology.," coverage in The Washington Post, September 23, 2016, quoting Adjunct Professor Alvaro Bedoya, executive director Center on Privacy & Technology, and Professor Paul Ohm.

"Pop star tells fans to send their Twitter passwords, but it might be illegal," coverage in Ars Technica, July 26, 2016, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"Business interests and consumer concerns clash at Senate hearing on FCC’s broadband privacy rules," coverage in IPWatchdog, July 14, 2016, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

"Experts Question New FCC Privacy Rules," coverage in MeriTalk, July 13, 2016, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

"Experts weigh privacy against better internet in FCC proposal," coverage in FedScoop, July 12, 2016, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

"Google Is Transforming NYC's Payphones Into a 'Personalized Propaganda Engine'," coverage in The Village Voice, July 6, 2016, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

The White House announced that Professor Paul Ohm was appointed by President Obama as a member to the Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Making, Whitehouse.gov, June 22, 2016.

"Georgetown Law Professor Defends FCC's Broadband Privacy Approach," coverage in Multichannel News, June 14, 2016, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

"House Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing on Broadband Privacy Rules," coverage in The National Law Review, June 13, 2016, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

"Microsoft sues US over secret demands for customer data," coverage in the Boston Globe, April 14, 2016, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

"Microsoft sues over law banning tech firms from telling customers about data requests," coverage in The Washington Post, April 14, 2016, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

"Kansas court official draws a line on email searches in debate over privacy," coverage in the Kansas City Star, April 9, 2016, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.

DC Councilmember Introduces Student Privacy Bill,” coverage in The Hoya, February 5, 2016, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

Top 10 Internet Law Developments of 2015 (Forbes Cross-Post),” coverage in Technology & Marketing Law Blog, February 1, 2016, mentioning Professor Paul Ohm.

"Top 10 Internet Law Developments of 2015," coverage in Forbes, January 25, 2016, mentioning Professor Paul Ohm.

Scared, dead, relieved: How the Ashley Madison hack changed its victims’ lives,” coverage by Fusion, December 9, 2015, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"Could the Third Amendment be used to fight the surveillance state?," coverage by Ars Technica, November 28, 2015, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"Big Data vs. Privacy: Striking a Balance," Datamation, October 27, 2015, quoting Professor Paul Ohm

 "Encrypted Smartphones Challenge Investigators," coverage by Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2015, quoting Professor Paul Ohm.

"Video from The Going Dark Debate: Just Security’s Second Anniversary," coverage in Just Security, September 28, 2015, featuring Professor Paul Ohm.
 

"Encryption Backdoor Debate Centers on Catching Stupid Criminals," US News & World Report, September 21, 2015, quoting Professor Paul Ohm

Recent News