The US Postal Service is looking to integrate with the “Internet of Things” by attaching electronic sensors to your mail.
The proposal appears in a solicitation posted on FedBizOpps which announces a program to, “Provide a vision for the Internet of Things applied to the Postal Service (the Internet of Postal Things — IoPT): a conceptual design of how new sensor and other data collection technologies could increase the ability of Postal Service infrastructure to create value to its business, customers and stakeholders through data.”
The USPS is also looking to, “Identify the components of the postal physical infrastructure that could lend themselves to the collection of new types of data.” The solicitation offers $100,000 to an individual or company that can help to achieve this goal.
Given that the “Internet of Things” was hailed by former CIA director David Petraeus as a transformational boon for “clandestine tradecraft,” the idea of America’s postal service jumping on board isn’t going to sit comfortably with privacy advocates.
The USPS already scans letters and parcels almost a dozen times during processing, but the notion of a government agency developing sensors that soak up even more data is likely to cause consternation in a post-Snowden era where paranoia about privacy is rife.
It’s still a federal crime to read someone else’s mail and then destroy the contents, meaning it’s far easier for the government to snoop on your email than your physical mail.
However, given that the NSA now routinely intercepts shipments of tech goods such as wi-fi routers to implant surveillance bugs, the notion of a microphone being hidden inside a USPS sensor on a letter delivered to a targeted individual doesn’t sound nearly as outlandish as it once would have done.