Wednesday, July 10, 2024

USPS Metadata Surveillance Program

Tim Cushing:

The USPS wasn’t filing its required paperwork tracking government requests for snail mail info. The USPS rarely rejected another government agency’s demand for mail metadata. And the problems weren’t minute. The forms detailing compliance with government demands for data often weren’t being filed until more than two years after those reports were due.


It wasn’t until 2023 that Congress made a move to shut the program down — citing not only some concerning privacy violations but the lack of evidence showing easy access to weeks or months of mail snapshots was essential to law enforcement investigations. Roughly a year later, that request from Congress has gone nowhere.


The USPS (quite reasonably) points out there’s no expectation of privacy in the information contained on the outside of mail. And that’s an understandable position to take… to a certain extent. But no postal worker on their own could compile this information on their own despite having access to this information. And even if they could, it could not be obtained in bulk after the fact because the USPS and its employees would need to know what mail to track beforehand to generate these records.


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