AirTalk for August 2, 2013

The government is tracking all your snail mail, too

Mail

cybrgrl/Flickr

The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program uses computers to scan the exterior of every piece of domestic mail.

It's been a summer of leaks and exposed government surveillance programs. The Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe confirmed the existence of a mail scanning program to the Associated Press in an interview published yesterday. The program, called the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which USPS computers scan the exterior of every piece of domestic mail, was first uncovered by the New York Times in July. 

Donahoe told the AP the scanning program is used mostly for mail sorting purposes, but law enforcement agencies have used these images "a couple of times" in criminal investigations. Furthermore, Donahoe said the scans are only stored for up to 30 days and are then erased. "We don't snoop on customers," Donahoe told the AP. "It's extremely expensive to keep pictures of billions of pieces of mail. So there's no need for us to do that."

Guests:
Ron Nixon, Washington Correspondent, The New York Times

Amie Stepanovich, Director of the Domestic Surveillance Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in DC focusing on emerging civil liberties issues


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