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U.S. Postal Service To Develop 'Intelligent Mail'

Hemos posted more than 11 years ago | from the tracking-my-santa-claus-letters dept.

Privacy 345

securitas writes "The President's Commission on the U.S. Postal Service's final report (PDF) has recommended that the USPS and the Department of Homeland Security develop sender identification technology for all U.S. mail. The commission said Intelligent Mail could bolster security and let consumers track the progress of all mail they send, which has been a top consumer demand in surveys. The report released July 31 reads, "Each piece of Intelligent Mail will carry a unique, machine-readable barcode (or other indicia) that will identify, at a minimum, the sender, the destination, and the class of mail... Intelligent Mail will allow the real-time tracking of individual mail pieces." Privacy advocates like the EFF and Center for Democracy & Technology are understandably concerned. The Final Recommendations are available in PDF format. More at Direct Marketers News and pro-privacy/civil liberties magazine Counterpunch." Jamie adds: This confuses me, because I read a news story in late 2001 which matter-of-factly explained that authorities would be contacting recipients of letters which went through a particular post office around the same time as an anthrax envelope. The implication, which I haven't seen any discussion of then or since, is that records are kept of every letter's travels through every post office. Anyone know anything about that? Update: mec does.

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345 comments

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how about developing exciting new stamps? (-1)

Sexual Asspussy (453406) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645547)

Reliable mail (-1, Flamebait)

martyn s (444964) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645558)

Maybe they should work on reliable mail first. I know, cheap shot.

IF I EVER MEET YOU I WILL KICK YOUR ASS!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645772)

I am a US Postal Employee (5, Insightful)

Crazieeman (610662) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645904)

The biggest problem with mail arriving late lies with people unable to write, unable to address, and unable to even stamp mailpieces properly.

How the badly addressed mail process works in short:

Mail is brought to the General Mail Facility, where it is run through machines that attempt to read the addresses. The software isn't perfect, quite a few aren't readable to it. The digital image is sent to various Remote Encoding Sites in which people (like me) try to decipher the addresses and input them properly. The information is sent back to the GMF, barcode is printed on, and the piece goes its way. If we cannot decipher it, the image gets rejected, and the mailpiece goes to manual sorting.

Why it takes so long sometimes

A tremendous amount of people do not know how to address. They do not include directionals. They do not include street suffixes. Transposition of zip codes, or downright incorrect ones in contrast to the city destination. If you want your mail to get somewhere fast, place a Zip+4 and make sure it is correct. That is the first number we look at.

Directionals and suffixes are important. An especially frustrating case is the Kansas City metro area. Where there can be a 31st Street, Place, Avenue, Road, Circle, Court, Terrace. On top of that, North/South/East/West.

Abbreviation of streets and cities is another frustrating issue. I work in Wichita, KS. We receive images from facilities in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and New York. Some street in Minneapolis with a long name that is routinely abbreviated by residents is foreign to those 800 miles away. Please write the street in full.

Zip Codes. These are very important. The computers read these first. We read these first. An irritating tendancy for people in the northeast is to drop off the 0 in their 5 digit zips. This is especially true in Connecticut. Ever wonder why sometimes it really takes 7-9 days for something to go across town? Because its getting sent to Kansas City and run through the system before it gets straightened out and sent back.

Lastly, bad handwriting. Try to be careful about 5 and S, Zero and O, and 9 and 4.

Re:I am a US Postal Employee (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645982)

Mod parent up. Great, informative post.

STFU please (1)

doc_traig (453913) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645993)

I've been using the USPS for ten years (since I left home basically) and I've never had an issue with its service outside of a torn cover on a Car and Driver. I've never had any of my outgoing mail lost, and everything I was supposed to receive, I did. I do all eBay shipping with them now, especially since UPS is not always careful with the fragile stuff. The postal service is more reliable per use in my personal experience than the D.C. Metro system is these days.

Just a shout out to the USPS, especially the carriers...

RFID (3, Interesting)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645564)

So, I guess RFIDs will be embedded into paper at some point in the future I would think.

Re:RFID (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645763)

I don't see the big deal with this - look at the bright side. Imagine a world wherein my mailbox reads the code as some third class letter from the "Grow your Penis Larger" people and auto-discards it to the recycyle bin. I'm thinking junk filters for the physical mailbox - sweet.

Re:RFID (2, Insightful)

mekkab (133181) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645866)

too expensive. Barcode on the stamps. Its cheaper and they already have that hardware infrastructure in place.

It's not quite that bad (1)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645927)

UPS [ups.com] , FedEx [fedex.com] , and a few other delivery companies already do this. And its really nice. When I don't get a package on time, I just check the ID number on the website, and they tell me where it is, how long it stayed there, and so on. It is VERY convenient and saves a lot of worry.

This is just expanding an already good system to the regular mail. If it can be done reasonably fast and efficiently, I see no problems here.

The benefits are good and I'm not worried that any government thugs will be obscesssed with watching where my mail goes. (they could already do that anyway... each envelope I send has an address on it.)

Re:It's not quite that bad (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645994)

"Left FEDEX ramp 07:15"

What is a fucking "ramp", where is it, and who the fuck cares? I want to know where my package is IN RELATION TO ME AND THE DESTINATION.

Now all they need are (2, Funny)

drgroove (631550) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645569)

intelligent Post Office Employees...

Bastard (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645595)

Curse you posting the same joke I wanted to in the time it took me to read the front-page article, fucker!

Re:Bastard (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645619)

sorry! hey, great minds think alike, right? :)

Re:Now all they need are (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645617)

And what do you do for a living, genius?

Re:Now all they need are (4, Insightful)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645661)

The problem isn't stupid PO Employees, its the fact that PO employees are so bound down by beurocratic rules and regulations that they can't do anything outside of exactly what they're supposted to do. It's not stupid employees per se, it's stupid people at the top making the rules

Re:Now all they need are (2, Funny)

Politburo (640618) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645887)

I once wrote "No Such Addressee: Return to Sender" on an object.

The postman said "You shouldn't write No Such Address, this Address exists, you live here!"

I tried to explain that I wrote "addressee" and that the *person* didn't live here. That didn't work so I apologized for my 'error' and went on my way.

Re:Now all they need are (1)

JFMulder (59706) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645894)

Since I can't post in the related Journal Entry since it's in the archive now, I was wondering how was going the Slashdot game? Did anybody sign up? Because I might have some Pro MS posts to collect on... :)

13 unions (2, Insightful)

jonnyfivealive (611482) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645725)

among other things, the existence of 13 unions in my dads location in tulsa, ok, plays a major roll. dont get me wrong, his has helped him out a lot, im jsut saying that that kind of situation will be prone to conflict, inefficiencies, and slothful reactions to situations.

management is also a serious problem. he was telling me that when a circumstance that requires a manager comes up, they all hide. when its over, they come out. ridiculous.

Re:Now all they need are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645869)

Dude,

My grandfather worked there and I'm willing to bet your IQ pales in comparison to his.

Big brother going postal? (2, Insightful)

BobTheLawyer (692026) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645579)

"This confuses me, because I read a news story in late 2001 which matter-of-factly explained that authorities would be contacting recipients of letters which went through a particular post office around the same time as an anthrax envelope. The implication, which I haven't seen any discussion of then or since, is that records are kept of every letter's travels through every post office. Anyone know anything about that?"

how would this be possible? I assumed they were expecting recipients to get in touch with them.

A possible way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645735)

A possible way:

Each letter is scanned to determine the destination, perhaps this scan includes the return address which is assumed to be the sender.

Perhaps they keep these scans, or keep the ocr-read information?

One problem is with letters without a return address, this appears to solve this.

Unfortunately it means false id would get around it, or at the very least the elimination of mail boxes as there would be no security to screen the sender.

Re:A possible way... (2, Informative)

LineNoiz (616971) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645963)

Recipient == The person to whom the letter is addressed. They have this information, otherwise the letter goes nowhere.

Sender == The person from whom the letter is sent. This is not always available, and even when it is available, there is no way to verify that it originated there.

Bottom line: Jaime's comment is really stupid. OF COURSE they have information relating to who got mail. That has nothing to do with information relating to who SENT mail.

Re:Big brother going postal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645738)

My guess is that given the recipient's address and the sender's address, they can recreate the route the mail took.

Re:Big brother going postal? (1)

Mahrin Skel (543633) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645767)

A record is kept of the destination of every piece of mail, but not of the particular piece or of the sender. So the USPS could know that around the same time that an anthrax letter went through a machine, letter went to particular other places. Theoretically you could track backwards as far as knowing what Post Office's you were receiving mail from, but with very few exceptions this wouldn't tell you anything about the sender or the contents. And if two letters for the same destination went into the same mailbag at some point, you couldn't separate out which came from where if they diverged later.

--Dave

Re:Big brother going postal? (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645865)

Dont most originating post offices stamp the letter ? so it should be easy to trace, or am I having flash backs to all those old spy movies where some one looks at the envelope and says 'this letter was sent last tuesday from Zurich'.

UK mail (5, Interesting)

danormsby (529805) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645588)

Mail in the UK often bears red dotted bar code that give key info to automated readers on where the letter is supposed to be going. The dots get put there by an OCR reader and saves having to re-OCR everything.

Not sure how you are going to identify the sender AND have postboxes where anyone can post a letter.

Re:UK mail (5, Insightful)

dotwaffle (610149) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645677)

Americans often get "scared" by things like this, as they're unconstitutional and whatever, but is it really worth getting worried about? Check your email with telnet next time you are expecting mail. You notice there will be a recipient address, a postors address, and all the servers is has passed through... Sound familiar? And yes, British post is registered to the point that you can track a piece of mail as it gets lost (sorry... gets delivered). Well, business/franked mail anyway. Obviously most mail can't be traced to the source, just the first Post Office it passes through...

Re:UK mail (1)

juancn (596002) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645780)

Not sure how you are going to identify the sender AND have postboxes where anyone can post a letter

My guess is that the meaning of "identifying the sender", is basically that the sender knows the tracking number (not the name, SSN, etc.).

Otherwise you would have to identify yourself before sending any mail at all!

Common sense is the least common of all senses ;)

Intelligent mail? (-1, Redundant)

TWX (665546) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645599)

I was hoping for 'Intelligent Mail Handlers' first...

In other news... (5, Funny)

V_drive (522339) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645604)

The stamp is now $2.47

Make sure to go out and buy special $2.10 stamps to use with your existing $0.37 ones.

Re:In other news... (1)

AlexDeGruven (565036) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645646)

Heh, at the rate things are going, don't be too suprised if that's the way it will be. I've never seen a business that can raise rates like the USPS does and still be losing money. And it's NOT because of e-mail. I send just as many paper letters now as I did before the advent of e-mail, which is none.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645835)

And it's NOT because of e-mail. I send just as many paper letters now as I did before the advent of e-mail, which is none.
Wow, that's a really sensible argument.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645931)

First, I'm not positive, but I don't think USPS loses money. I was told that they haven't received a government subsidy since 1983 except to cover services for the blind and franking privileges for our congressmen.

Second, they don't make a profit on first class mail. They actually lose money on each letter, but they make a profit on bulk-rate mail. You know, the junk mail you get in your (physical) mailbox.

Third, where does this notion that postal rates are high come from? First class postage was raised to 13 cents in 1975. It's roughly tripled in about 30 years. Do you know what cars cost in 1975? Besides, it's 37 cents!

No, it's $10.70 (1)

missing000 (602285) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645859)

And you can get it now!

Express mail rates [usps.gov]

My Turkey-Baster Pregnancy With Hemos (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645618)

I am a lesbian, deeply involved with a woman of lusty beauty such as most men will never know. Her hair is short and blonde. Her face is bold, with a nice sexy square jaw. She has small breasts, and muscular arms and legs, and even a slight hint of a six-pack. Just the mere thought of her body gets my juices flowing.

She and I have been carpet munching for well over five years now. We love each other deeply, but it seems we've reached an impasse in our relationship. Every night, I lick and I lick and I lick. I finger, finger, finger. I also get the attention back with all sorts of creative ideas from my partner. Everything from dildos, to finger paints (when I am on my period), to meat tenderizer. However, no matter how much sexual gratification we exchange, it seems to be wearing down.

One day, while surfing on Slashdot, I learned about an interesting technique involving a turkey baster. The basic idea is that you fill a turkey baster [msmagazine.com] with semen [everything2.org] , then insert that tool into the vagina [everything2.org] , and squeeze out its contents. With this in mind, I contemplated the idea of getting pregnant with this method, and having a baby with my partner.

I approached my beautiful mate and asked her if she wanted to have a baby. Her face lit up! She seemed to be excited, imbued with new life! However, the euphoria rapidly dissipated when she came to the realization that she did not possess the proper equipment to get me pregnant. I quickly responded that "indeed you do have the right equipment! It's in the kitchen, I'll show you." Promptly, we waltzed into the kitchen and out of a drawer, I produced the turkey baster that would bring a new life into the world.

The next job was to find a source of sperm. Sperm is not hard to come by. Men ejaculate tens of thousands of gallons of it every day [cmdrtaco.net] . We figured it'd be easy to acquire a nice hot, steaming load of cum from virtually any man. One day, I stood outside the door of our home, close to the sidewalk, topless, and perking my lively breasts at any man who passed. Most simply gawked, but some actually tried to touch, but quickly walked away before doing so. Pretty soon, a nice young man [slashdot.org] came along who took such an interest in my tits that he seemed to forget about all else! Before long, I had him in our house and I was giving him a blowjob before he even knew what happened. As soon as he shot a big load into my mouth, I grabbed the baster and spit the load into it. He looked puzzled, but quickly realized the bizarre situation he was in and left immediately. I paid him no mind.

"Quickly," I shouted to my lover, "fuck me with this thing!" My lover grabbed the baster, thrust it into my eager beaver, and began to thrust like she was a man. I rubbed her clit and fingered her and she tweaked my boobs and fondled my own clit. When we were both about to climax, she squeezed the bulb of the turkey baster, squirting the whole load deep into my uterus. The warm, thick feeling of it drove me wild! When we were done, we rubbed oil all over each other's bodies, praying to the Lord Jesus that we would get pregnant.

Over the next few weeks, signs of something unusual began to show. As it turns out, I was not only pregnant, I had herpes too. Fucking Hemos! My life was turned upside down, but that story is for another day...

Post Office and Intelligence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645628)

This IS a joke? Right?

Re:Post Office and Intelligence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645679)

It IS the Bush administration. Right?

HA! (5, Informative)

MarkusH (198450) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645636)

The implication, which I haven't seen any discussion of then or since, is that records are kept of every letter's travels through every post office. Anyone know anything about that?

Having worked at a post office clerk in a former life, I would say you must be kidding. I personally handled 25,000 letters a day, and I wasn't in automation, which does 50,000 letters per station per hour. You just don't have time to record any sort of information about first class mail.

What they probably meant is that they would check on letters with return addresses or was sent registered or certified. Registered, Certified and Insured mail DID get that sort of record keeping, for obvious reasons.

Re:HA! (1)

Prizm (52977) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645818)

One of the implications is that the "intelligent mail" also wouldn't require as much human interaction. This is very similar to what FED-EX or UPS do with packages, only on a much grander scale. Less hand sorting and more automated sorting could make this very feasible.

And this is different from FedEx or UPS how? (1)

VCAGuy (660954) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645637)

And why are they doing it now? This isn't exactly new--shipping companies have been doing this for years, it helps optimize their routing and it's a cheap way of showing the customer that "something is happening" after that package disappears on the truck...

Re:And this is different from FedEx or UPS how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645715)

FedEx and UPS don't track the sender. I can pay cash and no one checks my ID. I'd hate to see that day I can't buy stamps on vacation and mail home a postcard because the government wants to track me.

--
me

Or, this is different from USPS how? (2, Informative)

missing000 (602285) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645739)

Track Packages Here. [usps.com]

Of corse, it costs extra. But why force everyone to pay for it?

Re:And this is different from FedEx or UPS how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6646000)

I kind of agree. When ever a company develops and automated system that is almost always collecting information. For example here is how I think the system is working. They have a central point at each mail-processing center where all the mail is read by some type of automated machine that can route the mail to the correct location.

I am sure that log this information to know possibly the Sender (if it is listed), most positively they have the destination and the source of the document. I am sure that already have a system in place for this. But adding the additional bar code would probably make the data a little more reliable.

tracking #'s (1)

jonnyfivealive (611482) | more than 11 years ago | (#6646013)

you can pay extra for the paperwork/service that gives the ability to track the package/envelope/whatever. the way i understand this article, the usps would require this on ALL letters, postcards, packages, everything. i believe that to be the difference.

Inconvenience is overwhelming (5, Insightful)

capt.Hij (318203) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645639)

I didn't realize that I have a right to send anonymous mail. The practical aspects are the killer for me. If I can't just drop a letter in a mail bin then the US postal service is too restrictive for me to use. I'm not going to go to the post office, stand in line, get ID'ed just to send a letter. I can pay my bills on-line. This seems like a great way to put the USPS out of business.

Re:Inconvenience is overwhelming (-1, Troll)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645724)

This seems like a great way to put the USPS out of business.

They aren't a business, they're a government service. If they were a business they'd have been bankrupt decades ago.

This is just cancelling stamps with a genned up barcode. Just embedding some more info into the postmarks. They can already trace it back to the post office.

Theres no standing in line or showing ID or any of that shit. That's slashbot FUD.

Re:Inconvenience is overwhelming (3, Informative)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645822)

They aren't a business, they're a government service. If they were a business they'd have been bankrupt decades ago.
However, they don't receive any money from the rest of the federal government (i.e., tax money from citizens). They are entirely self-sufficient and get their money exclusively from selling stamps and other services. Because they're a government service, they simply don't make a profit.

Re:Inconvenience is overwhelming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645842)

No, troll, they are a business. They have been granted a monopoly on first-class mail, but they are not bankrupt because they make money from stamps and they take in more than they spend.

Re:Inconvenience is overwhelming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645882)

Actually, they are a business that's been subsidized by the government, much like Amtrak. However, they are still a for-profit corporation, but the government keeps them from bankruptcy.

Re:Inconvenience is overwhelming (1)

YinYang69 (560918) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645832)

Yes, but you don't get your bills through FedEx. You can't put the USPS out of business because they have the only right to parcel mail. That's federal law, and none would contest it (heh, unfortunately).

Sure the law gets bent every now and again by sending papers through UPS and FedEx (usually for businesses), but the USPS is supposed to be the sole provider of letter-based communications in the United States, period.

Re:Inconvenience is overwhelming (2, Informative)

bluegreenone (526698) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645966)

I'm guessing they would just have you buy stamps with your ID embedded. Get a USPS ID card, buy stamps with it at a kiosk, and just stamp and drop a letter in a mailbox as normal. The convenience factor will probably be figured out, leaving only the privacy questions.

Mail Tracking (1)

godot42a (574354) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645640)

Now you will at least be able to know that your priority parcel has been stuck in Nowhere, IA for the last four days.

Re:Mail Tracking (0)

SkiddyRowe (692144) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645742)

No kidding, I live in Nowhere,IA and I'm sick and tired of the mail piling up here...

No Problem (0, Troll)

Jack Comics (631233) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645647)

Personally, I don't see the problem here. UPS, FedEx, etc. have been doing this for years. And honestly, the Postal Service needs to come up with something to stay alive... they're already talking about possibly eliminating Saturday delivery services due to low funds. If this helps funds keep rolling into the Postal Service, and makes people happy as it *is* one of the most requested services by consumers, the tax payers.

Re:No Problem (1)

bigox (158657) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645713)

I agree. Tracking some packages is what I want sometimes when the item is too cheap to be shipped by FedEx or UPS.

What's the big deal? Want an anonymous letter? Send it from a far away place.

Package tracking doesn't require personal details (1)

Safety State (692003) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645952)

Package tracking doesn't require the type of sender identification which is being proposed.

You can just attach a unique serial number to each package, then give a receipt with the number to the sender. The sender may then track the package using that serial number.

The "convenience" aspect serves the purpose, in this case, of misleading people into thinking their names and addresses are required to provide letter tracking service. The sender information, because irrelevant for this service, is needed only for other purposes. It is up to you to guess what those purposes are.

Citizens for Surveillance [safetystate.com]

Remember folks... eternal vigilance is the price.. (5, Insightful)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645649)

The more tracking information we allow to be used, the technological conveniences we embrace, the greater the need to keep watch to make sure they are not abused. Technology is a good thing, but like fire, it must be carefully watched.

If we turn lazy and complacent, the price will be our own freedom.

Vigilance in Security is in Dire Need (1)

Pavan_Gupta (624567) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645792)

Once again, we reach one of the same questions that must be addressed almost each and every time. It's critical that we balance security issues with privacy issues, but this time around, security far outways privacy concerns. It's Imperative that we have a highly secure Postal Network, because things like the anthrax scare should really never happen.

Think of this like a normal e-mail network. Large portions of mail that is sent and recieved has recorded logs, and things of that nature. When you recieve spam from blah.blah.die.com you can still vaguely trace it back through the header information. Snail mail deserves that kind of security too.

My rights as a citizen will NOT be trampled by something like this. Privacy groups that cry about this kind of thing have made an eggregious error. I value my security as much as I value my privacy, and since my privacy is hardly going to be trampled by some IDs on snail mail, I'm not worried. Keep in mind 670 million pieces of mail are shipped to 138 million addresses around the nation every DAY, so I hardly think my 1 piece of mail will be torn apart by the evil government.

If you really want to worry about this, just think about the increase in postage required to handle the logging. That might go up .. a cent. So, I wouldn't worry... I'd be thrilled the homeland security departement is doing something that might actually work!

Re:Vigilance in Security is in Dire Need (1)

missing000 (602285) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645912)

Ben Franklin:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Re:Remember folks... eternal vigilance is the pric (2, Interesting)

CB-in-Tokyo (692617) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645833)

"If we turn lazy and complacent, the price will be our own freedom"

If you live in the US, I think the bulk of that price has already been extracted. Now it is just a matter of tightening the screws, and cleaning up loose ends.

Take a step back and look at everything that has happened over the past few years. From rigged elections to people being held without charges being laid to the Patriot Act just to name a few.

Fortunately the freedom to leave is still available, but I think that is because it is too expensive to build a wall that long.

Re:Remember folks... eternal vigilance is the pric (-1, Flamebait)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645983)

"freedom". And what do you guys do with freedom that is so great?

American culture is by far the sickest of the world. If you're not some elite 300ft yacht sailing biggot you're some white trash idiot watching friends. All in the name of the "American Dream" which has nothing todo with an enlighten society and everything todo with being selfish and greedy.

Personally I love watching the turmoil on CNN. It's better than my stories!

Special.

Re:Remember folks... eternal vigilance is the pric (0)

spudchucker (680073) | more than 11 years ago | (#6646011)

You must be new here.

tracking every peice of mail (2, Insightful)

BigGar' (411008) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645652)

I don't think it's very likely that right now every peice of mail is tracked. Each post office, however would know who itdelivers mail to and it wouldn't be very difficult to notify those individuals of the anthrax. On the other had if someone passing through mailed a letter, that passed through the post office in question, back home, I doubt that either of them would have been notified of the anthrax threat.

FUCK ME ON HALLOWEEN* (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645669)

as a matter of fact, to be exact, nothing eats like a Big Mac --random nigger

Logistics? (2, Interesting)

daoine (123140) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645678)

Aside from the cost and privacy issues, is this even logistically possible? According to the USPS, they'll have unique identification for every sender and receiver of mail. (Which, will apparently save them $2 billion by not having to forward mis-addressed mail)

Really, if we can't keep Social Security organized, don't know who has entered the country, and allow thousands of people escape paying taxes every year, are we going to be able to keep track of every single person living in the country via the Post Office?

I don't know -- I can't see this being very useful. If I want to track a mailing, I'll use Fed Ex. I just don't see the "consumer demand" for this, and I can't see it being at all useful for making our mail "safer".

Re:Logistics? (1)

budalite (454527) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645901)

Yup. Stands about as much chance at working as making all emails traceable. Not too soon, I should think.

it is about time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645692)

now I can know where my packages go when they are delivered to the wrong person from now on.

I couldn't hold back (-1, Troll)

SkiddyRowe (692144) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645697)

In Soviet Russia, the mail mails you!

First Post (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645700)

This post automagically generated by the first post robot, version 0.0.02 alpha. It's probably not going to actually get first post because my claimed l337 coding skills are actually quite l4|V|3.

Redundancy (1)

Egonis (155154) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645707)

I am an unfortunate victim of Canada Post...

When sending standard .47c mail, there is no tracking, but it will eventually get there.

As far as registered mail goes (not much more expensive, depending on the destination, size, and weight) the package is tracked with an id number, which you can check on their website.

This service already exists, imho.

Is the USPS proposing to make registered mail mandatory? This will increase costs, and slow delivery greatly.

Voluntary only (1)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645714)

On the one hand - this is not a bad idea. Who's ever sent a package for an eBay sale or to your relatives or a business - and had to make sure it was there?

So no - I don't think this is a bad idea.

As long as it is voluntary. Nobody should be forced to identify themselves in the mail. I still believe that a working democracy absolutely depends on anominity - the ability to state your opinions without worrying about government/oppressive majority/violent minority acting against you.

Would I use it? Eh - depends on what I was sending. But I believe that it is important to keep the ability to allow anonymous mailing available, and make this tracking system on "opt-in" only - not a "mandatory for all" solution.

But then again - that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

To Jamie's addition... (1)

YinYang69 (560918) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645734)

Its pretty easy, regardless of the lack of technology in place, to contact recipients whose mail has gone through a particular facility, based simply on the address. Mail sent to location A,B,&C will always be routed through location X. D,E,&F thru Y.

Most likely what has happened is that the process of getting in touch with recipients pulled a fat, gigantic 0 in terms of useful information. That would explain why they want to roll the technology out, and why you haven't heard much, if anything, about it since.

What would potential Anthrax recipients know anyway? Particularly if the attack was random? They need to keep track of who sends the mail. If the technology mentioned at minimum keeps track of senders, receivers, and class, it should be harder at least to anonymously send mail.

And if the Unabomber has taught us anything, its that its easier to keep track of recipients than senders. :)

I'd be happy... (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645736)

If they developed the intelligent mail carrier, and put it to work in my neighborhood. If there's a car parked within 15 feet of my mailbox, I don't get mail that day (God forbid it would have to get out of the vehicle) and the next day I get a pissy note from the "Postmaster" explaining that the mailbox can't be blocked.

Privacy advocates have nothing to worry about (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645741)

Want to know why? The additional cost of printing the tracking codes or even putting RFID's will make the USPS charge extra for it. Unless the cost is raised beyond what it is now. USPS is kind of independent. The only reason I would like intelligent mail is it would give us ammo when the credit card companies screw up and cashes our check, but does not apply it to our account. We could bring the tracking info and prove they recieved it. I mean, honestly, if you do mail the "right" way now, it's already out in the open (return address). Also, people who are concerned about privacy should not send stuff through USPS NOW as it is. Keep in mind even if its a federal offense to open mail not addressed to you, what is to stop someone from doing just that? Just the glue on the paper.

OpenPGP? (1)

Dashmon (669814) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645752)

So what about just using GPG sigs? ...

Oh of course... cryptography is bad and used by terrorists.

Re:OpenPGP? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645918)

RTFPost. Postal mail, not e-mail. Although making sure everyone uses GPG is still a good idea.

Re:OpenPGP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645962)

Excuse me retard. We are talking about MAIL here. OK. Now you can go back to your cubicle and drink your mountain dew.

Dweebert.

PS. --I will bitchslap you with your red stapler if you don't make haste in getting away from me.

clarification (1)

cavemanf16 (303184) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645756)

This confuses me, because I read a news story in late 2001 which matter-of-factly explained that authorities would be contacting recipients of letters which went through a particular post office around the same time as an anthrax envelope. The implication, which I haven't seen any discussion of then or since, is that records are kept of every letter's travels through every post office. Anyone know anything about that?

I don't know about that story regarding contacting people who's mail went alongside of the Anthrax letters, but I know a smidgeon about this new mail routing system. Basically, it's the same thing as the UPS system of scanning every package at each "waypoint" during it's journey. So in essence, the mailman would have a handheld scanner to scan every mail that went to your house as he dropped them off in your mailbox. The major distribution centers would have auto-scanners, etc.

While I understand the privacy concerns, and agree that their should be some really REALLY steep fees for the bulk-mailer type companies that send out junk mail, some industries (the one I work in included) would really benefit from this, because verification of bills, payments, and other important mail arriving or not arriving at certain destinations along the way would improve customer service abilities and customer confidence (or lack thereof) in the USPS system and in those businesses utilizing the new bar code scanning.

I just did a rather in depth analysis about this for my company, and it would be pretty useful to us and our customers (actual customers, not "potential" customers - we don't spam mailboxes) if the USPS actually implemented this thing.

Not a bad idea... (1)

cryptochrome (303529) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645761)

Now why the hell doesn't the post office offer a way to send a letter/package to a specific person/business rather than an address? I'm sick of 1) losing half my mail every time I move 2) having to tell strangers my residence 3) having addresses screwed up because of misunderstood words. If the postal service would just offer the equivalent of a phone number or email address, which is routed via a database and can therefore travel with me, it would solve all those problems. Combine it with a precise geopositioning code system like this [slashdot.org] to allow mail to be sent to any given location in the world and we'd be set.

Yes a bad idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645864)

You're just shifting around the information in the database. The same problems are there and will always be there, you're just making it more expensive for the post office to operate by doing unnecessary work.

Quote "The Drumhead" - TNG (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645768)

"Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay."

The Drumhead [newhorizonsdesign.com]

Re:Quote "The Drumhead" - TNG (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645953)

"Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay."

Nice to see Star Trek carrying on it's hallowed tradition of split infinitives.

In other news (-1, Offtopic)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645794)

Right wing feminists declare war on the US Postal Service for trying to upset the gender balance.

The Old Mail system. (-1, Flamebait)

The Old Burke (679901) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645795)

The mail system as we know it today just works amd that could be a reason for keepinhg it the way it is. Today the mail system has a balance between security, economy and privacy that benefits the economy as a whole.

However, the antrax cases and the Una-bomber case revealed that there are several loopholes in the implementation of todays mail system. Giving anyone an unrestrictive right to send mail to anyone remind me of the spam problem. No one should have this right without authorization from a central government. The system we have today opens of for large scale DoS attacks through US Postal because new technology makes it possible the automize the process.

Ordinary citizens have gained a lot on new technology and the possibillity of anonymous communication such as mail through their ISP. So, in order to retain the balance which the Constitution rests its only fair and square that the government restrict and monitors the old snail mail system.

So what? Oh, wait... (5, Insightful)

CBNobi (141146) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645811)

My initial reaction to reading this was, 'so what?' After all, UPS and FedEx do this to their packages, and it's particularly useful for online purchases.

From page xvii of the report:
"Intelligent Mail could allow the Postal Service to permit mail-tracking and other in-demand services via a robust website..."

So it seems like they're going the UPS/FedEx route, and making it a useful tool for users of the postal system.

However, later on in the report (pp. 147-148):
"Intelligent Mail's Security Applications Should be Aggressively Pursued" ...
"Requiring all mail to identify its sender would likely have a negligible impact on most users...[they] would consider such a requirement a relatively modest concession to ensure their safety"

They're using the same flawed argument that they used in many post-9/11 dealings, including the Patriot Act. Great.

Re:So what? Oh, wait... (1, Flamebait)

11390036 (158863) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645908)

They're using the same flawed argument that they used in many post-9/11 dealings, including the Patriot Act. Great.

While, yes, this argument is flawed. However the PATRIOT act was *passed*, and now is very *real*.

Never underestimate the complacency of our fine land, most people don't even vote. Why would people now become so fed up with the immoral antics of our politicians that they would try to put the brakes on them?

Our president is full of lies. He lied is way into office, and is lying in office. People cling to farmiliarity.

UPS (1)

Kallahar (227430) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645821)

A lot of it depends on how they develop it. For example, the UPS system is good - you can track where a package is in the system and estimate when it will arrive. The USPS should do something similar.

The potential problems are:
1) You don't know your tracking number unless you send it from the post office.
2) The government can now automate "who sent letters to x, ever?"

I don't see this really helping in terrorism prevention though, the post office already stamps the letter with the first office it goes through, and the routing is static between offices...

Darl is going to upset! (-1, Offtopic)

haydenth (588730) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645825)

Didn't SCO allready patent this?

morons developing planet/population rescue program (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645831)

don't fret about the post hole service. they'll be shipping all form of parcels for all time to come. they should be working on an intelligent method to stop delivering megatons of worthless annoying junkmail, as the public will seek alternatives to their many facaded approch to 'serving' the public (their charter, by the way).

back on task. the Godless murderous thieving georgewellian fuddites appear to be continuing to destroy the planet unimpeded. you know that's not going to work out well.

y'all might want to consider helping to disempower this greed/fear based execrable. you know what to do/where to look. see you there.

each murdered infant carries a badtoll, which cannot be repaid by the whoreabull walking dead, which leaves it (repairation) up to you/us.

pay attention. that's quite affordable, & can be rewarding as well.

"consumer demand" (2, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645838)


Of course, when they say "consumer demand" they're really talking about businesses' demands, but calling it "consumer demand" makes it look less like a privacy issue.

Already available (1)

I8TheWorm (645702) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645849)

I was writing barcode and wireless apps at DRI [datarecognition.com] in Austin 3 years ago using RFID labels on boxes. They're fairly cheap, and easy to use.

As a security measure... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645881)

...I remove the return address and the destination address on everything I mail.

There are privacy concerns, but.... (2, Insightful)

Jerk City Troll (661616) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645903)

Let's look at a certain detail and some historical fact:

The information meant to be encoded isn't anything that is not already available on the front of the envelope.

The USPS has a history of telling the government to go fuck itself when the government says "we want to do <some privacy violating activity>". For example, the Postal Service said "no" strongly to the government's request to inspect packages and have the USPS engage in TIPS. (Anyone care to fill int the details here?)

Yes, there's plenty of ways this system could be abused. But when it comes to the USPS, I would say not likely.

Handwriting recognition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6645911)

The local hubs for post offices (aip codes that end in "01") usually have handwriting recognition units to recognize zip codes so it can automatically be routed to the correct waiting bin. This job used to be done with the 'Mark-One Eyball' and a ten key. So, even in the last 20 years there has been some form of tracking, even if it has only been through the post offices the item travelled through.

USPS already has some systems that help track mail (3, Interesting)

EriktheGreen (660160) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645914)

USPS already has some systems that help track mail, including the one that puts those little bar-code like things at the bottom edge of the envelope (they're more or less translations of zip code information).

Didja know that USPS uses Linux systems to do OCR on address information? It's the only serious use of Linux at USPS, mostly due to anal government service employees who barely managed to finish high school and who can't be fired due to union seniority.

Actually, USPS has been looking into a mail tracking system since just after 9/11 (I worked there on and after 9/11 for a while) and this report will just help them get funding for that system.

Really, this isn't a terribly bad thing. If you think about it, it just verifies what post office the mail came from. The information about the sender is going to be the information that the sender presented at the post office of origin for verification.... to a non-trained government employee who probably could make more cash working at mcdonalds (no bull, I have a great deal of respect for those letter carriers... out in all weather, and most get paid about $20k a year).

I also can't imagine that there will be human checks of the sender information in a lot of cases, since there are drop boxes all over the place for mail, and there's no way they can either remove those or staff them with people.

Yet another easily subvertable federal system meant to make us safer, but really just another way to spend gobs of your tax dollars on things we need less than more prisons and better schools.

Erik

Privacy Concerns (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645915)

Like this surprises anyone? The goal here is to remove ALL aspects of privacy from the private citizen. The government wants total, absolute tracking ability for EVERYTHING you do.... in real time...

As far as UPS/etc... I'm sure their records can be subpoenaed via the patriot act anyway.. so its not much different, just an extension..

"for my protection my ass"

Not a privacy issue (1)

b-baggins (610215) | more than 11 years ago | (#6645941)

What is this justifiable privacy concern nonsense? YOU are contacting ME. Sorry, you don't get to do that anonymously, no matter how much you whine about your so-called right to privacy. You want to stay anonymous, don't bother me. You want to talk to me, then you tell me who you are.

Sigh... (3, Insightful)

Kaa (21510) | more than 11 years ago | (#6646008)

The Washington Post article contains this gem:

The Postal Service estimates that it delivers about 670 million pieces of mail to more than 138 million addresses daily, leading to concerns among law enforcement and government officials that it is too easy to use the system for criminal or terrorist activity.

Boggle.

I am waiting for the moment when it occurs to these people that it's too easy to use the USA road system for criminal or terrorist activity. Or just sidewalks, for that matter.

Thank god that they don't have any idea that computer networks exist. If they are that apprehensive about a postal system, just imagine the hysterics they'll have when they discover the Internet...

Bad Pun.. (1, Funny)

AnimeRulez (621583) | more than 11 years ago | (#6646014)

Can we say this new technology Pushes the Envelop?
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