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First email, now snail mail...

Posted by on Aug. 2, 2013 at 10:10 AM
  • 10 Replies

http://news.yahoo.com/ap-interview-usps-takes-photos-073116945.html 

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Postal Service takes pictures of every piece of mail processed in the United States — 160 billion last year — and keeps them on hand for up to a month.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said the photos of the exterior of mail pieces are used primarily for the sorting process, but they are available for law enforcement, if requested.

The photos have been used "a couple of times" by to trace letters in criminal cases, Donahoe told the AP on Thursday, most recently involving ricin-laced letters sent to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"We don't snoop on customers," said Donahoe, adding that there's no big database of the images because they are kept on nearly 200 machines at processing facilities across the country. Each machine retains only the images of the mail it processes.

"It's done by machine, so there's no central area where any of this information would be," he said. "It's extremely expensive to keep pictures of billions of pieces of mail. So there's no need for us to do that."

The images are generally stored for between a week and 30 days and then disposed of, he said. Keeping the images for those periods may be necessary to ensure delivery accuracy, for forwarding mail or making sure that the proper postage was paid, he said.

"Law enforcement has requested a couple of times if there's any way we could figure out where something came from," he said. "And we've done a little bit of that in the ricin attacks."

The automated mail tracking program was created after the deadly anthrax attacks in 2001 so the Postal Service could more easily track hazardous substances and keep people safe, Donahoe said.

"We've got a process in place that pretty much outlines, in any specific facility, the path that mail goes through," he said. "So if anything ever happens, God forbid, we would be able very quickly to track back to see what building it was in, what machines it was on, that type of thing. That's the intent of the whole program."

Processing machines take photographs so software can read the images to create a barcode that is stamped on the mail to show where and when it was processed, and where it will be delivered, Donahoe said.

The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was cited by the FBI on June 7 in an affidavit that was part of the investigation into who was behind threatening, ricin-tainted letters sent to Obama and Bloomberg. The program "photographs and captures an image of every piece of mail that is processed," the affidavit by an FBI agent said.

Mail from the same mailbox tends to get clumped together in the same batch, so that can help investigators track where a particular item was mailed from to possibly identify the sender.

"We've used (the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program) to sort the mail for years," Donahoe said, "and when law enforcement asked us, 'Hey, is there any way you can figure out where this came from?' we were able to use that imaging."

by on Aug. 2, 2013 at 10:10 AM
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Replies (1-10):
mickstinator
by on Aug. 2, 2013 at 11:21 AM

i don't really see anything wrong with this. it's like a store having a security camera or requiring a signature of purchase.

deccaf
by Platinum Member on Aug. 2, 2013 at 11:29 AM
1 mom liked this

 To me, it's just one more place the government is monitoring.

I once was of the opinion that I'm not doing anything wrong, so it doesn't matter to me.  Now, it just seems so total.  I feel like the world of "1984" is not too far off.  It is disturbing to me that so much of what we do is monitored. 

When you go in a store, you assume that you are being recorded.  You also have an option of not going into a store, same with making a credit card purchase, you can choose not to do activities that subject you to those procedures.  When someone sends you mail, you have no control over that, and cannot opt out of mail service. 

I feel that if you know that something is likely to occur (video cameras, signature requirements, recorded conversations) you have a chance to avoid it (for the truly paranoid, even a trip to the gas station is full of surveillance). 

It's insidious.  And when we allow the little things, it builds to the big things.


Quoting mickstinator:

i don't really see anything wrong with this. it's like a store having a security camera or requiring a signature of purchase.


 

mickstinator
by on Aug. 2, 2013 at 11:54 AM

Maybe my disposition stems from my age and awareness of these measures from very early on (and a lack of experience with less security). 

I do contemplate what our future will be like and how invasive our world will become. Retina scanners that can detect people from distance, voice scanners, and even ear scanners which can help identify people in large crowds. It's a little nuts, but IMO the creation of these technologies is inevitable. What we need to focus on is the responsible use of each of them. 

I also think a good side of the mail monitoring is the fact that 1) the information is not stored altogether, 2) the information is deleted after a relatively short period, and 3) it can provide immunity or an alibi for someone being accused of a crime they did not commit by storing this detailed of info. 

Quoting deccaf:

 To me, it's just one more place the government is monitoring.

I once was of the opinion that I'm not doing anything wrong, so it doesn't matter to me.  Now, it just seems so total.  I feel like the world of "1984" is not too far off.  It is disturbing to me that so much of what we do is monitored. 

When you go in a store, you assume that you are being recorded.  You also have an option of not going into a store, same with making a credit card purchase, you can choose not to do activities that subject you to those procedures.  When someone sends you mail, you have no control over that, and cannot opt out of mail service. 

I feel that if you know that something is likely to occur (video cameras, signature requirements, recorded conversations) you have a chance to avoid it (for the truly paranoid, even a trip to the gas station is full of surveillance). 

It's insidious.  And when we allow the little things, it builds to the big things.


Quoting mickstinator:

i don't really see anything wrong with this. it's like a store having a security camera or requiring a signature of purchase.




deccaf
by Platinum Member on Aug. 2, 2013 at 11:58 AM

They claim it is deleted.  They also claimed that they had no monitoring of phone and emails, until Snowden blew the cover off that lie.  I am trusting government less and less every day.  It seems there is something new coming out every couple weeks  showing how they are invading our privacy.


 

Quoting mickstinator:

Maybe my disposition stems from my age and awareness of these measures from very early on (and a lack of experience with less security). 

I do contemplate what our future will be like and how invasive our world will become. Retina scanners that can detect people from distance, voice scanners, and even ear scanners which can help identify people in large crowds. It's a little nuts, but IMO the creation of these technologies is inevitable. What we need to focus on is the responsible use of each of them. 

I also think a good side of the mail monitoring is the fact that 1) the information is not stored altogether, 2) the information is deleted after a relatively short period, and 3) it can provide immunity or an alibi for someone being accused of a crime they did not commit by storing this detailed of info. 

Quoting deccaf:

 To me, it's just one more place the government is monitoring.

I once was of the opinion that I'm not doing anything wrong, so it doesn't matter to me.  Now, it just seems so total.  I feel like the world of "1984" is not too far off.  It is disturbing to me that so much of what we do is monitored. 

When you go in a store, you assume that you are being recorded.  You also have an option of not going into a store, same with making a credit card purchase, you can choose not to do activities that subject you to those procedures.  When someone sends you mail, you have no control over that, and cannot opt out of mail service. 

I feel that if you know that something is likely to occur (video cameras, signature requirements, recorded conversations) you have a chance to avoid it (for the truly paranoid, even a trip to the gas station is full of surveillance). 

It's insidious.  And when we allow the little things, it builds to the big things.

 

Quoting mickstinator:

i don't really see anything wrong with this. it's like a store having a security camera or requiring a signature of purchase.

 

 



 

mickstinator
by on Aug. 2, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Those are good points, although did anyone really believe they hadn't been monitoring phones and emails? The first scandal on that accord happened over a decade ago. 

Quoting deccaf:

They claim it is deleted.  They also claimed that they had no monitoring of phone and emails, until Snowden blew the cover off that lie.  I am trusting government less and less every day.  It seems there is something new coming out every couple weeks  showing how they are invading our privacy.


 







mickstinator
by on Aug. 2, 2013 at 1:35 PM

Decca, if you're at all interested in a crash course on the history of surveillance in America, here is a great podcast done by a couple of history professors on the subject. I've listened to this and a few others, but this is the most recent. It was, at least for me, incredibly interesting. 

deccaf
by Platinum Member on Aug. 2, 2013 at 1:40 PM

Quoting mickstinator:

Decca, if you're at all interested in a crash course on the history of surveillance in America, here is a great podcast done by a couple of history professors on the subject. I've listened to this and a few others, but this is the most recent. It was, at least for me, incredibly interesting. 


I will try to find some time to listen to them. Thanks.
Nighttiger
by Ashley on Aug. 2, 2013 at 3:25 PM
My bigger issue is with surveillance drones overhead.
deccaf
by Platinum Member on Aug. 2, 2013 at 3:45 PM

 Couple of recent things about drones: They are likely pulling them out of Afganistan.  Second, there is a town in Colorado that is considering issuing licenses to citizens to shoot down the drones. 

Quoting Nighttiger:

My bigger issue is with surveillance drones overhead.


 

mickstinator
by on Aug. 2, 2013 at 4:37 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting Nighttiger:

My bigger issue is with surveillance drones overhead.

this is one thing i find incredibly upsetting. 

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