09 May 2017

#InformedDelivery: @USPS Employs #Tech to Combat #Mail Theft! #HomeSecurity #MailCall #ImageCapture #Photography #House101

Roughly a month ago, I received an email from the United States Postal Service (USPS) touting a new home delivery service enhancement called Informed Delivery that would allow participants to "see their mail before it arrives" and thereby know what mail is expected. (Greyscale front side images of letter-sized mail destined for a registered address are captured during the normal USPS sorting process and made available for viewing to the registered party.) If you've ever had any cause for concern that your mail is going AWOL, whether due to mail theft or rogue postal employees, then signing up for Informed Delivery may offer some peace of mind. The service is free and currently covers machine sorted letter-sized mail. At the moment, Informed Delivery is only available in limited ZIP Codes, but is expanding. Service registration requires proof of identity/address (as it should).

Since receiving the initial email from the USPS back in April, I have received a couple other emails and at least one piece of direct mail touting Informed Delivery. It's obvious the USPS is showcasing (and even pushing) this new service. While Informed Delivery is an example of the notoriously "left-footed" USPS using modern technology in an ostensibly beneficial manner, there are some things to consider. Namely, that the USPS is a government agency and giving it leave to photograph your mail (and store those photos) may indeed provide enhanced security for your residential mail delivery, but it might also open up a new can of worms. (NOTE: The USPS already photographs the front side of automatically sorted mail, Informed Delivery service provides an alternate usage for these images.) Ask yourself: How long are mail images stored? Who has legal access to these images? How secure is the USPS website (and servers) which store these images? Is "proof of address" enough of a standard for service registration? (At the very least, read the USPS privacy policy and be aware of exactly to what you are agreeing.)

Questions such as these are important because mail can often be of a sensitive nature. The USPS is bound by law to protect the privacy of your information due to it being a government agency which deals with sensitive personal information, but you should still be aware of both sides of the coin. If images of your "private mail" are being stored on third party servers it WILL become the target of hackers ...and of law enforcement, because let's face it, a good deal of information can be gleaned merely from examining return addresses and addressees. The average person may not care if a third party is keeping a log of his mail (the postal service can, of course, do this already, it's how mail fraud investigations are undertaken). The average person may aver the oft repeated "I have nothing to hide" catchphrase that is doggedly put forth to counter any Big Brother arguments against more surveillance, but whether you personally fear government misuse of your potentially sensitive personal data does not exempt the government from needing to establish rules to secure such data collection. You may think you have nothing to hide, but the mere thought does not protect you from law enforcement subpoena or from criminals who might seek to hack your mail images and use any information gleaned from them in an attempt to blackmail you.

Informed Delivery could provide a valuable home service, it could prove a useful home security tool, but it needs to be rigorously secured (and regulated) to guard against exploitation. Just food for thought.

Visit https://informeddelivery.usps.com for more information or to signup for service.

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