Privacy Law

Post office photocopies envelopes of all mail sent in the US, says NY Times

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It isn’t just when using the Internet and making cellphone calls that Americans should assume what used to be considered private information may be known by corporate and/or government entities.

In what started as an effort to combat anthrax threats, the U.S. Postal Service photocopies the envelopes of all mail sent in this country, the New York Times (reg. req.) reports. It isn’t known how long the government saves the images of the 160 billion or so pieces of mail sent annually, or exactly how they are stored and used.

The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program had been secret, but was revealed by the FBI last month in discussing an investigation of ricin-tainted letters reportedly sent to President Barack Obama and New York City’s mayor, among others.

“In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime,” Mark D. Rasch told the newspaper. He previously served as director of the federal Justice Department’s computer crime unit.

“Now it seems to be ‘Let’s record everyone’s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.’ ” Rasch said. “Essentially, you’ve added mail covers on millions of Americans.”

See also: “Is your photo online? Are you on Facebook? If so, retailers can ID you and your shopping profile” “Lawmakers: US has gotten cellphone info for 7 years, ‘lawful’ program prevented terrorist attack” “US also collects Internet data; does NSA directly tap servers of Google and other top companies?” “How much privacy would you willingly sacrifice in the name of national security?”

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