A vast postal surveillance system is tracking every piece of mail you send. Moreover, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) frequently shares data about mail with law enforcement.
In particular, the USPS photographs the front and back of every envelope, postcard, and package it ships. The USPS also regularly shares images of mail with law enforcement, Fast Company reveals.
In fact, law enforcement needs no warrant to track mail if the Postal Inspection Service does the tracking. Furthermore, a program called the mail cover lets any law enforcement agency get information about your mail from the Postal Service.
Postal Surveillance System Is Over 120 Years Old
To explain, the Postal Inspection Service is the USPS’s law enforcement arm. The Inspection Service has been operating a vast postal surveillance system since the 1800s.
“The mail cover has been in use, in some form, since the 1800s,” Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell informed Congress in November 2014. In detail, the USPS filled 49,000 requests for mail covers in 2013.
Under mail cover, authorities can track mail without a warrant. On the other hand, postal inspectors need a warrant to open your mail.
Opening mail is considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure. Yet, tracking mail is constitutional because information written on the outside is public, Fast Company reports.
Postal Surveillance System Is Tracking All Your Mail
The postal surveillance system can track every piece of mail because of computers. To demonstrate, digital cameras take pictures of all mail.
Advanced analytics check the pictures and look for specific addresses names or patterns. Notably, this would include letters or packages mailed to the White House or the Trump Tower.
Law enforcement checks the mail for explosives and other threats, CBS reports. For example, the postal surveillance system helped the Secret Service spot bombs mailed to Hillary Clinton and other politicians last week.