Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

USPS Logs All Snail Mail For Law Enforcement

Soulskill posted 1 year,22 days | from the feel-free-to-keep-all-the-spam dept.

Privacy 324

The NY Times reports on a program in use by the United States Postal Service that photographs the exterior of every piece of mail going through the system and keeps it for law enforcement agencies. While the volume of snail mail is dropping, there were still over 160 billion pieces of mail last year. "The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers. Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It enables the Postal Service to retroactively track mail correspondence at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping." This is in addition to the "mail covers" program, which has been used to keep tabs on mailings sent to and from suspicious individuals for over a century. "For mail cover requests, law enforcement agencies simply submit a letter to the Postal Service, which can grant or deny a request without judicial review. Law enforcement officials say the Postal Service rarely denies a request. In other government surveillance program, such as wiretaps, a federal judge must sign off on the requests. The mail cover surveillance requests are granted for about 30 days, and can be extended for up to 120 days. There are two kinds of mail covers: those related to criminal activity and those requested to protect national security. The criminal activity requests average 15,000 to 20,000 per year, said law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are prohibited by law from discussing the requests. The number of requests for antiterrorism mail covers has not been made public."

cancel ×

324 comments

Sigh (5, Insightful)

cyberpocalypse (2845685) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179491)

While I understand WHY the USPS would do this, I wonder how much money they've spend on storing data (the photos) all the while cutting the hours of employees due to budget cuts, etc. as for the comment by Bruce Schneier: "whether it was a postal worker taking down information or a computer taking images, the program was still an invasion of privacy." I disagree. There is a difference between taking an address down and reading your mail. I don't see Bruce complaining about UPS, FedEx, etc. doing the same. Get over it

Re:Sigh (2)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179545)

Now... if only they could take this technology and use it to filter out the spam.

Yeah, yeah, I know, they make most of their money on spam.

Re:Sigh (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179761)

So its ok they are logging who mails who on EVERYONE? That is HIGHLY ILLEGAL.

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179799)

It's not anymore okay than what the NSA is doing.

Re:Sigh (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179819)

How? Which piece of legislation forbids the USPS from logging what it handles?

Re:Sigh (4, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179929)

Do i really need to explain how the 4th should be preventing the USPS from turning over logging records EN MASSE to law enforcement?

Re:Sigh (5, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179983)

sadly today, probably, yes, you do need to explain it.

The only thing sadder than our govt's secret slide into an Orwellian police state is that if they had just asked for the permissions, the public likely would have said no problemo! sigh.

Re:Sigh (5, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180083)

Do i really need to explain how the 4th should be preventing the USPS from turning over logging records EN MASSE to law enforcement?

They're only photographing the *outside* of the mail, which, in TelCo speak, is the metadata and is also clearly in "plain sight". I'm not taking a position on whether this is "right" or "wrong", but I don't see how it's currently illegal. Personally, I've always assumed the US mail was (somehow) tracked and recorded, just like with UPS and FedEx.

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180235)

but I don't see how it's currently illegal.

Because you're not taking into account the spirit of the law. This is as stupid of a justification as the NSA collecting all that metadata on citizens; metadata can be very dangerous when in the wrong hands, and our government has some filthy hands.

Re:Sigh (2, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180141)

The 4th what? Surely you don't mean the 4th amendment [umkc.edu] ? After all, that amendment protects against unreasonable searches, which is completely unrelated to the issue at hand.

The Fourth Amendment's protection of "papers" has never applied to the external surface of mail. The outside of mail must be read by the USPS for the service to function, so when you drop a letter in the mailbox, you're implicitly giving the USPS permission to read the visible surface. To my knowledge, there has never been a law preventing the USPS (or any other courier, for that matter) from reading anything visible from the outside. If the surface of mail is particularly confidential, it's not "unreasonable" to expect the mailer to put it in a plain outer envelope.

Re:Sigh (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180243)

After all, that amendment protects against unreasonable searches

Well, this is unreasonable.

you're implicitly giving the USPS permission to read the visible surface.

But I gave them no permission to log everything.

Who actually thinks this is a good idea, besides our filthy government?

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180331)

That is not how things are supposed to work as I understand. It is the other way round -- show me which part of the Constitution allows passing any piece of legislation to allow the USPS to do this.

Re: HIGHLY ILLEGAL (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179935)

Sorry, but haven't you got it yet? They are ABOVE the law, every law, everybody's law. And nobody can do diddley squat about it, though there will be buckets of pious lip service paid, with the requisite crocodile tears and lots of hand wringing. Most people have already forgotten about all this NSA stuff, after all there's all sorts of exciting circuses on TV and just look how much bread we get at Walmart! C'mon, sit back, and EAT, and WATCH, and EAT, and... You'll soon feel happier.

Just get used to being pwned like the rest of us have.

Re:Sigh (1)

icebike (68054) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180175)

So its ok they are logging who mails who on EVERYONE? That is HIGHLY ILLEGAL.

Dude: you handed the letter to an arm of the government. What part of that is hard to understand?

Re:Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179793)

"There is a difference between taking an address down and reading your mail."

Yes. Just like there's a difference between collecting "metadata" like phone numbers, call duration, for all phone communications going in and out of the country, versus listening in on the conversation. But it's still pretty remarkable what you can figure out with that data and the connections between the to/from addresses.

On one hand I agree it's silly to worry about something that can be read on the outside of the envelope, but on the other hand for it to be compiled for *every* transaction is kind of creepy given what you can determine with a bit of analysis. And imagine what you could do with the combination of mail address info, phone metadata, IP addresses and to/from communication info. A few database joins and you've created quite a dossier on a person from simple "public" information.

Lost My Mail (2)

sycodon (149926) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179919)

Those fuckers lost a check I sent and it will cost me $30 to cancel and resend. I wonder if I can get a record showing it at least made it into the postal system.

Re:Sigh (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179955)

Apparently you can't see the difference between FedEx/UPS and a Government agency? Simply amazing.

Re:Sigh (1)

ggraham412 (1492023) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180077)

I don't see Bruce complaining about UPS, FedEx, etc. doing the same. Get over it

The primary worry being oppression by the government based on political sentiments, the focus is off the USPS because most political organizing, ranting and pontificating happens online these days. If the government relied on USPS generated metadata to determine who was a member of various political organizations, they would probably find the typical MoveOn.org member was over 65 and receiving paper social security checks.

They take photos? (2, Interesting)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179517)

As long as it's only the exterior of the boxes, I don't care.
As long as they don't X-ray packages (could damage sensitive electronics, perhaps?), I don't care.
As long as they don't open up the packages (sensitive electronics and static discharges don't mix), I don't care.

They can take photos of the boxes from my eBay wins, I don't care.

Re:They take photos? (1, Interesting)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179581)

Would you care if the government demanded you submit a list of all your Facebook friends? If that bothers you, then consider there is little practical difference between that and logging all your mail. Both reveal a graph of your communications.

Re:They take photos? (4, Insightful)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179645)

You asking the government to deliver something for you and they record the shipment is different than the government demanding you submit a list of your facebook friends.

Re:They take photos? (1)

fazey (2806709) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179859)

yea... clearly they already have a list of your facebook friends.

Re:They take photos? (2)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179873)

I'm not asking them to deliver it; I'm paying them to deliver it. They work for me. This is no different than if FedEx or UPS did it. They don't get a special pass because they's da guberment!

Re:They take photos? (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179995)

I'm pretty sure fedex and ups do this.

Re:They take photos? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180103)

You are pretty sure that FedEx records everything, and if Law Enforcement wants a copy they send a request to FedEx and FedEx decides if they can have it? I have to believe you didn't think your post out very well.

Re:They take photos? (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180057)

Explain to me how recording the shipment prevents them from delivering it? You got what you paid for.

Re:They take photos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180137)

Explain to me how recording an envelope without a return address once it reaches the post office help law enforcement do ANYTHING.

Re:They take photos? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180313)

Easy. If something bad happens at the destination like possibly a mail bomb. The USPS would have a photograph of all the packages that went to that location.

I think the value is more forensic after the fact than preventative.

Re:They take photos? (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180159)

So when a woman goes to the Gynocologists and receives a thorough exam and the doctor films it keeps a copy on hand in case Johhny Law wants to see it, she shouldn't complain because she got what she paid for?

Re:They take photos? (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180155)

I didn't see this gem:

They don't get a special pass because they's da guberment!

Logic dictates that if you don't want the government to know you shipped something, you shouldn't ask the government to do it for you.

Also the USPS is only taking pictures of the outside of the mail. Technically they only really know where the mail is going. So it would be more accurate to say:

If you don't want the government to know what your mail looks like, then don't ask the government to deliver it to you.

Re:They take photos? (0)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180279)

Also the USPS is only taking pictures of the outside of the mail. Technically they only really know where the mail is going.

Which can be very important information.

If you don't want the government to know what your mail looks like, then don't ask the government to deliver it to you.

How about this: Don't keep the logs in the first place.

In practice, you're right, but this simply should not happen.

Re:They take photos? (0)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180301)

Folks. Hold on to your mice! Stay tuned for more brilliant perspectives from "Bill_the_Engineer" like: If you have nothing to hide, you won't care if we search you! and the follow up show: "Your lucky the government does you all those favors at such a low cost to you!"

Re:They take photos? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180157)

Just because you're paying them doesn't mean you're not asking. Just like Walmart can refuse you service even though you're paying them.

Re:They take photos? (0)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180217)

Just accept that they didn't do me a favor by mailing the package, and that you aren't smart enough to twist words and recast the issue, then move on with your life.

Re:They take photos? (0)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180021)

You asking the government to deliver something for you and they record the shipment is different than the government demanding you submit a list of your facebook friends.

Maybe the government shouldn't be in the letter/package delivery business. Just because something made sense in 1789, doesn't mean it still makes sense today.

Re:They take photos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179807)

How is that the same? Man some people make preposterous statements

Re:They take photos? (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179937)

so you say that UPS and Fedex don't keep records of every shipment they process?

Re:They take photos? (1)

Nyder (754090) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180189)

Would you care if the government demanded you submit a list of all your Facebook friends?....

Why would the government demand that? They already are tapped into Facebook, they know all your friends, and your private pictures.

Re:They take photos? (2)

bellers (254327) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179599)

People who use postcards may not feel the same way.

Re:They take photos? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179803)

So put it in a fucking envelope.

Seriously, who expects privacy with a postcard????

Re:They take photos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179927)

I sent a postcard via USPS... and I certainly put it in an envelope. After reading this article I'm quite happy I did.

Re:They take photos? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180185)

Because the government really, really wanted to know all about your trip to see the World's Largest Ball of Yarn.
SPOILER: Odds are that most details of your life are utterly boring to just about everyone else on the planet. Government included.

When there's this much data to sift through, they're not going to be idly browsing it.

Re:They take photos? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179715)

Have you been buying Ecuadorean pottery via eBay? Might we be at war with Ecuador next year? Might the government have a need to come up with some story about someone getting nefarious goods from Ecuador to help justify our invasion? And there are all those photos of your "boxes". Like anyone would believe that "but it was just eBay stuff!" story you'd try to use to excuse your betrayal of our glorious country. You traitor.

The point is, don't assume that the data collected on you won't be twisted to mean whatever anyone wants or needs it to mean.

Re:They take photos? (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179915)

...Because it's not like your side of the story could possibly be corroborated by receipts, packing slips, or even the actual product.

Surveillance itself isn't inherently bad, but it's an all-or-nothing deal. Once the investigators know you've been receiving packages from $ENEMY, they need to also know that those packages were unrelated to $PLOT or $TARGET, so it's obvious you're just another mundane person.

Re:They take photos? (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180285)

...Because it's not like your side of the story could possibly be corroborated by receipts, packing slips, or even the actual product.

You mean the stuff that the government seized when they raided your home?

Re:They take photos? (5, Insightful)

wbr1 (2538558) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179759)

Would you care if your wife/girlfriends package from adam and eve, or victorias secret was photoed?

How about the box your penis pump came in?

All your vitamins and supplements ordered online?

The point is not everyone WANTS THE GOVERNMENT TO HAVE DATA ON EVERY BIT OF THEIR PRIVATE LIFE!

It is people like you with the blase I dont care when someone is shoving a baseball bat in your ass that are helping the plutocracy ruin this country. Your complacence makes me ill.

Re:They take photos? (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180097)

I was just sending the USPS a photo of my penis pump. While it is in use!

I have nothing to hide! Do you?

Re:They take photos? (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179809)

Well, I do. Don't keep this information at all.

I defy the infidel postal service (5, Funny)

paiute (550198) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179519)

You will never stop us, dogs of Satan! We are everywhere!
sincerely,
Muhammad bin Occupant

Re:I defy the infidel postal service (1)

almitydave (2452422) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179747)

Dude, file a change of address form already. I'm still getting your mail.

Drudge report (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179817)

Seems to me that me that more and more often, the headlines on Drudge and /. are the same.

Then Why Don't They Postmark It Too? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179537)

I've been getting a lot of mail lately with no postmark. That's just BS, because postmarked mail can have enormous legal implications.

One of the Post Office's primary functions is to POSTMARK mail! If they aren't doing that -- and in a lot of cases, they haven't been -- they're very seriously not doing their jobs.

Prepaid bulk mail is one thing. But metered mail? How do I know you didn't meter it in your office one day, then actually send it two weeks later? Other mail? Hey, postal service: it's not JUST about cancelling stamps so they aren't used later! It's about marking when the damned thing was sent!!!

They haven't been doing their REAL jobs for a long time. They'd rather track your mail for Big Brother than worry about when you got the notice to appear in court for your lawsuit against the landlord.

Sheesh. And they wonder why they're losing business.

Re:Then Why Don't They Postmark It Too? (1)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180139)

I'm sure you have a citation for this "obligation to postmark".

Mind providing it?

Let me help you with a link to start from [usps.com] :
"Postmarks are not required for mailings bearing a permit, meter, or precanceled stamp for postage"

I'm glad this is coming out (4, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179539)

A public debate about blanket surveillance and the meaning of the 4th Amendment is long overdue. The more dirt comes up all at once, the harder it will be for the public and Congress to ignore.

There are really two possible outcomes: either Congress gets off its ass to rein in this kind of BS, or the American people actually admit they don't mind being spied on by the government (and there's a spike in emigration from the US to Europe).

Re:I'm glad this is coming out (0)

iluvcapra (782887) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179635)

The more dirt comes up all at once, the harder it will be for the public and Congress to ignore.

I dunno, if you were trying to avoid reform, I'd think bringing as much dirt up at once would be an effective strategy -- Congress is fundamentally limited as to how much it can do at any one time, all the abuses tend to blur together into nonspecific "allegations," the media gets its fill of the specifics after a day or two and turns to biography stories, as has been done with Snowden.

Real reform after thirty years of groundwork. You kids and your instant gratification! :)

Re:I'm glad this is coming out (1)

pspahn (1175617) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179875)

I don't really see the public getting pissed off about this. It's mail, a physical package, that is having its "meta data" recorded, instead of a virtual thing like an email or a phone call which connotes that is some how more entitled to absolute privacy.

Would I have a problem with the USPS taking photos of things I send in the mail? Not particularly. I wish it didn't have to come to this, but the goal is to protect against whack-jobs that send scary shit in the mail. Do I have a problem with someone "taking a snapshot" of an email I send or a phone call I make? Not particularly, and for basically the same reasons since the two methods are analogous.

Are some of the things I am doing being watched? Yes. Most definitely. I don't, however, consider many of them to be "spying on me". There is so much noise involved that there isn't any real spying going on a majority of the time. But that's sort of beside the point. The reason people are upset is that they fear that their government will use information about us against us. We worry that if our motives are misconstrued we will be sent to prison and forgotten about.

There is no practical way for the government to actually spy on all of its citizens. Even THX and LUH were able to get away with a few things for awhile despite constant surveillance. Of course, spying just like everything else will become more efficient. Maybe one day it will be possible, but as of right now, no, I don't really have a problem with what they're doing despite the fact that it might lead one day into something that does bother me quite a bit. Funny how that works.

Re:I'm glad this is coming out (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180201)

the goal is to protect against whack-jobs that send scary shit in the mail

Please tell me how holding a photo of the object taken as it moves through the system on its way to its destination that is only available for later revue accomplishes this.

Re:I'm glad this is coming out (2)

P-niiice (1703362) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180027)

We admitted we don't mind being spied upon when we made this legal via the Patriot act.

probably for the best (1)

nimbius (983462) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179567)

http://xkcd.com/325/ [xkcd.com]
just sayin'

Re:probably for the best (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179783)

And a picture of the outside of the box would have revealed this... HOW?

Not a big deal (2)

Thornburg (264444) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179569)

It has long been held by US courts that the exteriors of letters and other items sent through the mail are not considered private.

It makes sense that they are allowed to photograph and record them for later use.

I mean, did you really think that a piece of mail sent through a government controlled organization would be hidden from law enforcement?

Now, if they are doing the same for UPS/FedEx/etc, then there might be a slightly larger concern, but still not really a big deal.
Or, if they were opening (or scanning the inside without opening) and recording the contents of sealed mail without a warrant, that would also be concerning.

Re:Not a big deal (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179757)

"It has long been held by US courts that the exteriors of letters and other items sent through the mail are not considered private."

Irrelevant. Systematic collection of public information can legally (not to mention morally) constitute "surveillance" and an invasion of privacy. Have you ever heard of stalkers? I've had people stalk me. Why would you give the government a pass or stalking when you wouldn't tolerate it from anyone else?

"It makes sense that they are allowed to photograph and record them for later use."

It makes sense to them. It doesn't make sense from a citizen's perspective. And guess which is more important?

"I mean, did you really think that a piece of mail sent through a government controlled organization would be hidden from law enforcement?"

Again: there is a very big difference between information simply being "public", and a systematic collection of that information. The courts have recognized this.

"... but still not really a big deal."

(Sound of loud buzzer.) Ehhhhh... sorry. That's not quite the answer we were looking for. Perhaps you'd prefer to live in Cuba?

Re:Not a big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179909)

Wow, grow up.

Re:Not a big deal (-1, Flamebait)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180101)

"Wow, grow up."

Wow. Fuck off.

I'd give odds that I am older than you, and have been through experiences that show me how BAD of an idea this surveillance shit is. So why don't YOU grow up, and go read some f*cking history?

Re:Not a big deal (1)

SJHiIlman (2957043) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180163)

The history books you read were written by filthy terrorists!

Re:Not a big deal (0)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180283)

Hmmm, so you're, what? 12? 13? Surely anyone past the ninth grade would have a better response than that.

Re:Not a big deal (2)

Thornburg (264444) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180287)

(Sound of loud buzzer.) Ehhhhh... sorry. That's not quite the answer we were looking for. Perhaps you'd prefer to live in Cuba?

These days, if I didn't have a really important reason to stay in this country (my children), I would seriously consider leaving. I don't think Cuba would be at the top of my list.

Stuff like this is a total sideshow. It's a distraction from the fact that our government can't seem to get anything productive done.

As long as those in charge of this country (by which I primarily mean Congress and the Senate) spend more time and money bickering with each other and making absolutist "no compromise" stands, nothing here will improve.

What we really need is a changing of the guard. Vote every single incumbent out of office. Having more than two political parties wouldn't hurt either.

Re:Not a big deal (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179787)

I dont expect it to be hidden, but i also dont expect LOGGING of everything. Its a terrible road we are going down.

Re:Not a big deal (1)

0123456 (636235) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179901)

I dont expect it to be hidden, but i also dont expect LOGGING of everything. Its a terrible road we are going down.

Don't worry. The slippery slope is a logical fallacy, so things can't possibly get worse.

Re:Not a big deal (1)

0123456 (636235) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179865)

It has long been held by US courts that the exteriors of letters and other items sent through the mail are not considered private.

And?

Do you really think that if you went back in time and asked the founders who wrote the US Constitution whether having the government keep a record of all mail going through their system would be OK under the fourth amendment, they'd say 'Hell, yeah!'?

Re:Not a big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180115)

Do you really think that if you went back in time and asked the founders who wrote the US Constitution whether having the government keep a record of all mail going through their system would be OK under the fourth amendment, they'd say 'Hell, yeah!'?

Of course not. But they'd be rotting in one of His Majesty's prisons, and what difference would it make what they'd have said to a proposal to monitor the King's mail service? (And why do we always get time travelers and dimension-shifters showing up on the Fourth of July? Absolutely nothing happened that day.)

Re:Not a big deal (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180019)

If I send a letter, I don't expect the outside of the envelope to be private, fair enough. If I drive down the street I don't expect my license plate to be private. If I walk down the street I don't expect that to be a private act. What I do expect to be private is the records of all those actions going back months and years. This isn't just a matter of degree, there is a fundamental difference between any single action being public and a log of every action I've ever performed being private.

Re:Not a big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180219)

What I do expect to be private is the records of all those actions going back months and years. This isn't just a matter of degree, there is a fundamental difference between any single action being public and a log of every action I've ever performed being private.

Then you should try and get a law passed making that logging illegal, because it isn't and never has been.

Re:Not a big deal (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180295)

It is already illegal if I have a reasonable expectation of privacy, that is the test that the courts have used time and time again. Given how surprised, people are when they hear about these programs it seems that many people assume that the information is private.

Re:Not a big deal (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180105)

Now, if they are doing the same for UPS/FedEx/etc, then there might be a slightly larger concern

Wait, so if the government were tracking all packages going through a private mail company, that would be a cause for concern, but the government tracking all packages sent through a government mail service, that's ok?

What exactly is the difference? The government system is 'my' system not theirs to do with as they wish.

Re:Not a big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180167)

Now, if they are doing the same for UPS/FedEx/etc, then there might be a slightly larger concern, but still not really a big deal.

See that tracking number on each USP/FedEx/etc. parcel/letter? There you go.

Or, if they were opening (or scanning the inside without opening) and recording the contents of sealed mail without a warrant, that would also be concerning.

Most parcels going through air are getting xrayed and any suspicious ones are getting done with high resolution CT scan. People don't necessarily examine these things, but they are recorded for later review if there is a problem.

This is coming to parcel sortation plants soon where all parcels will be scanned and recorded.

I do not understand the retarded notion that if someone is not recording your conversation, that that is OK because they only have "metadata". Get it through your thick skulls that it is the metadata that is far more important than any content. From, Data, To, Size, etc. are the most important parts of the message. The content is irrelevant if you are employing a dragnet.

"Dear Jury. Framed person A has been communicating with terrists for unknown but most likely terrible purposes and needs to be locked up for life. The sekrit unverifiable records don't lie!". Of course that would not happen, right? It's not like it did happen in the past, where secret and nefarious communists and sympathizers were under every rock. That "history" is just propaganda!

Those that forget the past, will rediscover it.

Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179605)

This one seemed like a "no shit" policy to me. After all of the massive spying scandals that have been revealed, logging all "headers" so to speak on snail mail seemed obvious. Just something for us Silk Roaders to think about..

Time to mail my penpal, Little Bobby Tables (4, Funny)

McGruber (1417641) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179609)

This XKCD suddenly became topical again: http://xkcd.com/327/ [xkcd.com]

Soviet USA only spies on foreigners (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179621)

Right?

Can scan every item yet.... (5, Informative)

ageoffri (723674) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179641)

So the USPS can scan and retain a copy of every single item and find it for law enforcement requests, yet they can't put together a decent package tracking system and insist on delivery confirmation.

Re:Can scan every item yet.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180043)

Yeah -- the first thing I thought was, if the USPS does this, why do I have to pay extra for certified mail? What a scam.

It's all deception. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180225)

They're merely feigning incompetence. Demonstrating a working package tracking system would be delivering proof that they're tracking everything.

Of course, whistle blowers are terrorists now (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179719)

The criminal activity requests average 15,000 to 20,000 per year, said law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are prohibited by law from discussing the requests.

Hopefully the officials didn't send a letter, an email, or make a phone call. If they did, their anonymity wasn't good for much. But, hey, that's just metadata and isn't an invasion of privacy that can be used to political ends.

Scanning the Goose. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179721)

For mail cover requests, law enforcement agencies simply submit a letter to the Postal Service, which can grant or deny a request without judicial review.

Do they scan those in too?

UPS & Fedex & Others? (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179773)

What sort of similar surveillance programs are in place at UPS, Fedex and other U.S. couriers?

Re:UPS & Fedex & Others? (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179881)

What sort of similar surveillance programs are in place at UPS, Fedex and other U.S. couriers?

I don't know, but given UPS and FedEx use a computerized tracking system to run their ops I bet they have a lot more information than the USPS. The question is how long do they retain the data and who has access to it?

I'm okay with this but I wish it was more (1)

erroneus (253617) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179861)

If they used this as a system for tracking mail and not ONLY as a law enforcement tool, I'd be happier. So unless there are cameras at all postal drop locations, you can still spoof and anonymize yourself in useful and various ways, but usually, there is no such need for that. But it does bug me that they could use this technology to improve service but are, instead, using it to collect metadata on the stuff we receive. Now, depending on where something came from, they might know just what's in our plain brown boxes... sad.

How is this different than Verizon (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44179899)

When first reading the summary I thought no big deal but the more I think about it, how is this different than recording the Metadata from Verizon and others phone calls?
In reality this is actually worse. The Verizon data has no names directly attached and requires work (albeit trivial for automated systems) to determine the connecting parties. The USPS has all the data. They don't know the conversation but they know one took place.

At some point the only option we will have to keep some sort of anonymity will be to start spoiling the data. Own multiple devices that you randomly carry and pass the other devices off to others to carry. No way to know which device is actually yours. If you have to communicate with someone via mail establish multiple addresses to send ad receive from.

Not news... (1)

David Betz (2845597) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179905)

...they are taking pictures of what is publicly available anyways.

Old news (1)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179953)

People who have had a need for privacy/anonymity have been aware of the USPS role in law enforcement for decades. That they are snapping a photo (probably OCR the addresses straight into a database as well) doesn't surprise me.

Decades ago, before Al Gore invented the Internet, mail was a primary means of communication. Back then, I used to live in apartment buildings. Most apartment buildings have a central bank of mailboxes. I was surprised to see how many apartment buildings had more boxes than apartments. In one case, an entire extra floor of numbers. And they all appeared to be in use. I imagine the management makes a decent amount of extra cash renting these out.

I always wanted to watch when SWAT/Homeland Security attempted to storm Apartment #405 in a three story building.

"In the land of many laws... (1)

ikhider (2837593) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179957)

...many laws are broken" -Tao te Ching

Confused (1)

muskrat83 (1804430) | 1 year,22 days | (#44179993)

Not sure how I feel about this. On one hand your send items through a governement agency, how much privacy should one expect? On the other hand I believe the post office is supposed to respect privacy.

AND.....they are gathering handwriting samples... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180007)

If any of you have picked up a piece of mail recently, they require your signature and for you to print your name. Wonder why? I dont.

Re:AND.....they are gathering handwriting samples. (1)

Baby Duck (176251) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180161)

So you have no problem if fraudsters walk in and claim all your packages with no accountability on the post office's end and no recourse on your end?

From where did it come again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180215)

the anthrax?

Witness the birth... (1)

Lab Rat Jason (2495638) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180223)

... of snail TOR.

address your envelope and seal it up in another: addressed to a snailTOR node.

You're welcome Amerika.

That's small potatoes when compared to... (2)

Monsuco (998964) | 1 year,22 days | (#44180265)

the IRS, which I am legally required to report almost every detail of my private financial life to every year. Whenever we hear about how invasive the NSA or other government snooping programs are, I instinctively compare them to the IRS and most of them pale by comparison.

The NSA logs who I call, but not the contents. They log who I email, but not the contents (or so they say). The Post Office logs who I am sending and receiving packages from but not the contents (aside from making sure they don't give off radiation or appear hazardous). The NSA still requires a warrant issued by a FISA Court to actually look at any one individual or to tap communications if they believe it involves an American. Their data mining programs mostly just look for patterns. It's also not clear about whether or not the NSA looks at much data concerning Americans since it appears as though their primary goal was to monitor foreign communications that were routed through equipment in the USA.

By comparison, the IRS demands that I log everything I do financially and turn it over to them. If I make any mistakes, I can be prosecuted and potentially jailed for it. If the NSA misses a call I make, nobody is the wiser. If I forget that I'm no longer able to make a certain deduction, I face harsh penalties.

The NSA's generally pretty tight and there haven't been all that many cases of clear illegality. A lot of what the NSA does and how the FISA courts actually work is in a grey area, so I don't know what to think. By contrast, the IRS has frequently been at the center of many scandals.

Income taxes were legalized by the 16th amendment in 1913. Up until then, we didn't have Federal income taxes save for a couple of brief periods such as during the Civil War. During the 30's the first huge IRS scandal broke. The IRS was allegedly used by FDR's administration to harass political opponents. Most notably, Andrew Mellon, Treasury Secretary under the Harding, Coolidge and Hoover Administrations, was subject to baseless tax investigations. Senator Huey Long, a potential challenge from the left of FDR, also faced harassment. JFK and LBJ allegedly also had an IRS that liked to target political critics like the John Birch Society. Article 2 Section 1 of the articles of impeachment of Richard Nixon accused Nixon of having the IRS investigate people on his "enemies list". While Clinton was in office, a few conservative outfits like the Heritage Foundation allegedly faced "unusual" audits, though true hard evidence of wrongdoing never surfaced. Similar story with Bush. Several liberal outfits claimed Bush's IRS was pestering them, though the IRS actually appears to have audited more right leaning organizations than left leaning ones. Now we get to Obama's huge spat over the IRS. The IRS has admitted to clear discrimination against conservative groups, effectively squashing the Tea Party's activities throughout most of the 2014 election cycle. The IRS is also alleged to have turned over confidential donor information from an organization opposed to gay marriage to one supporting gay marriage so that gay marriage proponents could harass their opponents. A Supreme Court case during the civil rights era in which Alabama demanded the NAACP's donors so that they could be harassed clearly shows the IRS' behavior was illegal. How involved (if at all) the President and his staff are in all of this remains to be seen, but it is clear, given it's history, that if there's any government agency to be worried about, it's the IRS and not the NSA or Post Office.

Business Opportunity: Mail Anonymizer (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180297)

Send mail in two envelopes: outer, addressed to remailer, and inner, addressed to ultimate destination, with extra stamp as payment. Remailer opens outer and remails inner.

What about the Silk road? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,22 days | (#44180299)

I ordered some legal products from a person who were busted selling illegal products.

Vendors do not use new addresses for every single piece of mail that goes out because the addresses have to be legit. They have OCR software running on the photos being taken.

For months after that, my mail was regularly opened. I complained repeatedly but my USPS, UPS, and Fedex packages were all pilfered. Nothing was ever taken. Most notably was a laptop case I ordered that was completely and obviously removed from the packaging and examined inside and out, only to be returned and left at my door. They didn't even bother to retape it.

Living with liberty isn't work losing all liberty to a corrupt system of laws. Stop violating laws. If you are concerned with private information being public, such as the talk about penis pumps, sex toys, and all other manor of stuff, then stop shipping through the mail. Stop ordering online. Stop thinking anything you do isn't being watched, because it is. Live like you know you are being watched or expect to be "shocked" when you find this out again.

BTW, this has been well known for over a year in the SR community. This is old news.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...