Your friendly post office takes photos of all your mail
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 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…
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.
Don’t you feel safer, now?
The next question is less obvious. Is there any branch of government that isn’t tracking us?