Yes, that’s right, the United States Postal Service will now email your mail. No, it won’t open envelopes to scan the contents of written letters and violate your privacy in the process. But the postal service will scan the actual envelopes and mail the images to recipients if you so desire.
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Before you cry foul, you should know that the USPS will photograph the letters and packages sent your way regardless of whether or not you want this new service. The company has been doing it for a while now, since 2013 in fact. Photographing letters and packages apparently help it sort out mail. At the same time, this kind of data can be passed along to law enforcement agencies in criminal investigations. The mail tracking program was created in 2001 after anthrax attacks killed two postal workers and three other people.
But, as Quartz reports, the USPS will only take pictures of the exterior front side of an envelope, leaving it otherwise intact. Customers will have to sign up for the service, at this link, so don’t expect automatic emails from the USPS. Furthermore, coverage is rather limited right now, so unless you live in one of the regions that’s already covered, you’ll have to wait for the service to expand.
This new USPS product, called Informed Delivery, has been available in seven Northern Virginia zip codes since 2014, and now it’s coming to the New York City metro area. More markets will receive it next year.
With Informed Delivery enabled, your biggest concern other than privacy may be having your email account spammed by pictures of actual spam mail instead of just spam email. That’s something you should really consider before signing up, though USPS will send out these photo emails just once every morning.