Reading Time: 3 minutes

Do you ever think about how you might be uniquely identified in a huge database of other people/customers? For example, in the United States, we have social security numbers. Each person gets a uniquely identifiable number. Personal email addresses are similar, with the rare exceptions where people (usually couples) share an email address. Phone number is another one, albeit not used as commonly as the first two. Device identifiers (in the case of apps) can be another.

These unique numbers help analytic professionals track what people are doing. Hopefully, they use this info to provide useful and time-saving personalization. When you go to Netflix, you expect your content feed to be highly personalized. Netflix generally does a good job of this, and it’s all by leveraging your unique identifier; in this case, your email address.

The trouble arises when customers use their email addresses in other places, leaving an electronic trail of personal actions. Sure, we all expect to use our email address to log into all the various sites we use; think Amazon, Netflix, Gmail, etc.

The average user, however, has used their email address in tens if not hundreds of apps. If the average person has 60-90 apps on their phone, how many required email to sign up? How many “other” services require email? Did you give your email the last time you checked into a hotel? How about for your grocery store rewards card? The places to give up this valuable identifier are growing all the time, because not only is your email address unique to you, it’s a way to contact you!

Companies are becoming as bold as to ask for an “electronic signature” when attending company events. Imagine this: you walk up to an event and to gain access, you need to give your name, email address and even an image! This is called signing with your identity. It really is that simple. Your email and photo uniquely identify you. One provider of software that powers this sort of corporate gatekeeping is called Envoy ( Here’s the hero statement from their website:

Welcome to the modern workplace
From people to packages, Envoy helps you handle everything that comes through your front door.

Wow! PEOPLE! That’s scary as hell! Here’s why:

Big companies like Pandora, FitBit, Yelp and likely Uber already use this software. Think about what Envoy knows about you. Your latest haircut. Your age. That black eye you got from tripping in your hallway two months ago. It’s all captured if you submitted pictures each time you visited one of their clients.

This is frighteningly similar to what the Chinese in Hong Kong are fighting against with their lives.

Here’s an article written by Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky that goes into his personal experience using Envoy, the “ick” factor he experienced:

Of Interest

18 Impressive Applications of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs)
The authors review a large number of interesting applications of GANs. You’ll see the types of problems where GANs can be used and useful. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it does contain many example uses of GANs that have been in the media.

Meet Barbara Liskov. She Invented the Architecture That Underlies Modern Programs
She pioneered the modern approach to writing code. She warns that the challenges facing computer science today can’t be overcome with good design alone. “Designing something just powerful enough is an art.” Good code has both substance and style. It provides all the necessary information, without extraneous details. It bypasses inefficiencies and bugs. It is accurate, succinct and eloquent enough to be read and understood by humans.

America’s Math Curriculum Doesn’t Add Up
Most high-school math classes are still preparing students for the Sputnik era. Steve Levitt wants to get rid of the “geometry sandwich” and instead have kids learn what they really need in the modern era: data fluency. They get at questions like, “Does anyone actually use the math we are teaching in their daily life? Is there any benefit at all to learning this stuff? And are there not more interesting and useful things we could be teaching them?” (Thanks for sending this my way, TH-D!) Listen to the full podcast (or read a transcript) here: