Interview with Tracy Walder, AOMD Episode 030 – Natasha Bajema

Interview with Tracy Walder, AOMD Episode 030

Welcome to the episode number 30 of the Authors of Mass Destruction podcast. My name is Natasha Bajema, aka WMDgirl on Twitter. I’m a fiction author, national security expert and your host for this podcast.

  • If you’re interested in science & technology, in reading good fiction, or want to write fiction based on technology, you’re in the right place.
  • Before we get started, a few notes:
    • The views expressed on this podcast are my own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
    • The AOMD podcast is proud to be part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Check us out at
    • If you enjoy my podcast and want me to keep it up, I hope you’ll become a patron for only two dollars a month at Patreon at – p a t r e o n / natashabajema
    • For only three dollars per month, you can get access to my new podcast. It’s called Project Gecko after the second novel in the Lara Kingsley Series. In each episode, I’ll be giving a brief tech news intro and then reading two chapters from my book. Basically, this picks up where the Bionic Bug Podcast left off. If you haven’t listened to that one yet, you can access all the episodes on Patreon for free.
  • Personal update: I apologize for being a week late with this episode. I started out the month with a nasty sinus infection lasting for about two weeks. I’m still coughing and my voice is a bit scratchy, but I wanted to get this amazing interview with Tracy Walder, a former CIA staff operations officer and FBI special agent, out as soon as possible.
  • Before we get to the interview, let’s take a look at the news headlines. This week, I was particularly interested in the article titled “Silicon Valley Is Listening to Your Most Intimate Moments,” published on on December 11.
    • By now, most of us are aware (and maybe even comfortable) with the notion of being tracked on the Internet. Soon after we google something, we are bombarded with relevant ads on our Facebook newsfeed.
    • But what about all the audio data we know companies are collecting through the microphones on our devices like Alexa or our smartphones. Audio data is not immediately useful. It often has to be transcribed before the information can be plugged into most data analytics and become searchable. And transcription costs a lot of money. Unless of course, we’re training the next gen speech recognition AI.
    • This article claims that Amazon and other companies are paying temps to transcribe our audio into useable text data to do just that. And it makes economic sense. The value of Alexa is its capacity to recognize and respond to human speech. But what about our privacy rights?
    • If you read Deep the user agreement for Siri, for example, Apple states that “voice data might be recorded and analyzed to improve Siri, but nowhere did it mention that fellow humans might listen.” If you read the user agreement for Alexa, Amazon goes even further, claiming the right to retain your audio recordings indefinitely.
  • The day after this article came out, I experienced a bit of a shock. Last week, I gave two lectures on artificial intelligence over Zoom to Tracy Walder’s class of high school students at Hockaday School in Dallas. My iPhone was sitting next to me, and Facebook was open on my phone. During one of my lectures, I made a joke about wanting to genetically modify my metabolism so that I could eat more donuts. I hardly ever eat donuts or talk about them. There’s no information on my Facebook about my love for donuts.
    • Two hours after I gave the lecture, an ad for donuts appeared in my Facebook feed. I went to check my privacy settings for my microphone, and sure enough, I’d turned it on for Facebook messenger. Coincidence?
  • Let’s get to the interview.

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