Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
John F. Kennedy
Listen to the entire speech here.
Fixing the USPS (United States Postal Service)
Why is it against the law to open a First Class Letter and not against the law to read someones email?
Everything is becoming digital and that includes the United States Postal Service (USPS). You and I didn’t choose this. This is being forced upon us. Until we run out of electric power we will move towards an ALL DIGITAL world. Accepting this change is difficult, hard to imagine and even harder to understand what it all means.
I will argue anyone over 50 has a meme (an immutable image) of the 1960’s model of our postman / postwoman delivering our letters and picking up our outgoing mail. We baby-boomers know that a hand-written letter carries more emphasis and the effort often shows how much we care. Today’s generation is living in real-time. How can the USPS compete with that world and still provide the services we rely on as a free and democratic society? We just cannot abide the vestiges of the analog world any longer.
There are so many examples to consider. All of our radio, television, music and telecommunications have been converted to a digital format. Pictures, documents, tax returns, banking, finances…well, it has all been converted, and yet we still are struggling with the reality about the USPS.
With one of the largest work-forces in the United States; over 546,000 workers are employed by the USPS. These workers are responsible for many of the day to day functions of our countries operation and well-being. They provide a constitutional protection of 4th amendment protection to our communications and property. A proper search warrant is required to open certain classes of mail. Read more here
4. Can Postal Inspectors open mail if they feel it may contain something illegal?
First-Class letters and parcels are protected against search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and, as such, cannot be opened without a search warrant. If there is probable cause to believe the contents of a First-Class letter or parcel violate federal law, Postal Inspectors can obtain a search warrant to open the mailpiece. Other classes of mail do not contain private correspondence, and therefore may be opened without a warrant.
The establishment of the Postal Service in 1775 was preceded by a colonial mail service to ensure that communications between our founding fathers were not intercepted. The freedom to send private communications has been protected by those principles for all these years and it is under siege.
These 4th amendment protections do not exist with commercial carriers like Fed-Ex.
9. Right to inspect. FedEx may inspect the shipment at any time and may permit government authorities to carry out such inspections as they may consider appropriate. FedEx, in addition, may reject or suspend the carriage of any prohibited items or one that contains materials that damage or may damage other shipments or that may constitute a risk to FedEx equipment or employees or to those of its service providers.
Digital communications are disruptive in nature and have created new challenges as well as entirely new industries. The USPS is no longer the only way to communicate or transport personal property securely across large distances. These changes of the Digital World have created new questions about privacy and new laws have been created to attempt to define the boundaries and rules. We have more questions than answers and struggle to keep up with the variety and scale of the communication tools.
Nothing today in the digital world mimics the legal protections of the USPS mail box.
USPS Digital letters do not exist. We have no constitutional protect for any electronic data. You should think twice about getting your bills and statements delivered electronically. Everything you do online can be copied, stored, analyzed and used for other purposes.
The USPS needs to claim a stake in the digital WWW (Wild Wild West) and provide the Federally Regulated services in digital format that we rely on today. The question is are they capable of pushing that agenda forward? The USPS is under attack. We need to help the USPS protect us this day and moving forward.
The USPS has a great history that can be admired and preserved.
- 1775 – Benjamin Franklin first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress
- 1847 – U.S. postage stamps issued
- 1855 – Prepayment of postage required
- 1860 – Pony Express began
- 1863 – Free city delivery began
- 1873 – U.S. postal cards issued
- 1874 – General Postal Union (now Universal Postal Union) established
- 1893 – First commemorative stamps issued
- 1896 – Rural free delivery began
- 1913 – Parcel Post® began
- 1918 – Scheduled airmail service began
- 1950 – Residential deliveries reduced to one a day
- 1957 – Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee established
- 1963 – ZIP Code inaugurated
- 1970 – Express Mail® began experimentally
- 1971 – United States Postal Service® began operations
- 1971 – Labor contract negotiated through collective bargaining, a federal government “first”
- 1974 – Self-adhesive stamps tested
- 1982 – Last year Postal Service™ accepted public service subsidy
- 1983 – ZIP+4® Code began
- 1992 – Self-adhesive stamps introduced nationwide
- 1993 – National Postal Museum opened
- 1994 – Postal Service launched public Internet site
- 1998 – U.S. semi-postal stamp issued
- 2006 – Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act signed
- 2007 – “Forever” stamp issued
- 2008 – Competitive pricing for expedited mail began
We need a Digital Ben Franklin to step forward. We need the protection of our communications to be a protected Constitutional right and it needs to extend to our digital property and data.
The USPS workers need to be retrained as digital data handlers.
Every US citizen needs a USPS “personal electronic mail-box”.
The concept of “rural delivery” in the digital world means universal service and free and open networks. Free and Open Networks should be a part of the new USPS.
Everyone needs to be able to access their mail-box with any device connected to a network on a 24 by 7 by 365 day basis…not the commercial Internet but a secure private data network.
Laws for postal mail should be applied to digital mail.
As Jaron Lanier explains in his new book “Who owns the future” we are headed in a direction that is both dangerous and will potentially create the next revolution. In a NY Times article he can be summarized as follows.
“Who Owns the Future?” reiterates some ideas in Mr. Lanier’s first book: that Web businesses exploit a peasant class, that users of social media may not realize how entrapped they are, that a thriving middle class is essential to keeping the Internet sustainable. When “ordinary people ‘share,’ while elite network presences generate unprecedented fortunes,” even that elite will eventually be undermined. Mr. Lanier compares his suggestions for reconfiguring this process to Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal,” but the last thing he worries about is writerly grandiosity. “Understand that in the context of the community in which I function,” he says of Silicon Valley, “my presentation is practically self-deprecating.”
As Jaron points out…
This book may not provide many answers (“It is too early for me to solve every problem brought up by the approach I’m advocating here”), but it does articulate a desperate need for them.
My response to solving this problem is to completely redesign the information architecture we all live in today.
- We must stop giving away our Digital Data under the premise that it is all we can do.
- We must overturn the 3rd Party Doctrine rulings in favor of personal property rights in our electronic information.
- We must secure 4th amendment rights in our personal property and put our Sovereign Government in charge of protecting our digital property and upholding our rights for due process.
- We must build a new model for information management.
- We must build a system that protects all original works for all intellectual property and a method for economically sharing that information.