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Is The Post Office Mining Your Personal Data?

post office data mining

Image source: Washington Post

The United States Postal Service (USPS) wants to collect data about your personal life and sell it for profit, according to a chief marketer. Data mining is one of just several schemes the money losing agency has hatched in an attempt to save itself.

Among other things, the post office wants to be able to help marketers develop mail tailored to specific individuals, the USPS’s chief marketing and sales officer, Nagisa Manabe, said in a speech at a recent conference called Postal Vision 2020.

In her speech Manabe described a number of ways in which the post office wants to make money in ways that have privacy experts concerned.

“We are not that far from the point where the refrigerator will simply be able to reorder for you,” Manabe said. She described sensors that will monitor how much food is in your refrigerator and then reorder it for you. The letter carrier would then fulfill or bring your grocery order when he or she drops off the mail. “You will see us looking to collaborate with grocery chains across the country. We’d like to experiment with grocery delivery, so that’s one of the areas where we’re looking in earnest.”

“As we know more and more about how consumers are traveling around and making their decisions, it behooves us to get involved and actually send them information to actually close the deal [for businesses],” Manabe said.

Collection of a Vast Amount of Data

Manabe’s vision involves the collection of a vast amount of data and raises serious concerns about privacy. It presumably would include the monitoring of what types of mail a household receives – for instance, the types of magazines and business mail that are put in the mailbox.

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The Post Office, of course, wants to collect the data in order to be more competitive with private delivery services such as FedEx and UPS. It also wants to make up for some of the revenue it is losing. The USPS lost $16 billion in 2012 and $5 billion in 2013 largely because the volume of letters mailed has been falling.

Collecting data will also make it easier to work with online retailers such as Amazon.com and eBay. Both Amazon and eBay are developing their own delivery services — something that alarms the Post Office because it makes a lot of money off of their shipments. The USPS already has a close relationship with Amazon and even tested Sunday deliveries for Amazon in some cities last year.

She described a scenario in which a woman shops for cars at two different dealerships.

post office data mining“We’re at the point where, all too soon… We’re going to know exactly that she was shopping at two different car dealers looking at cars, and both of those car dealers should be mailing her communication about that vehicle, right?” Manabe said, according to the Daily Caller. “And we’re there now, folks. I mean, you all know this. There are dozens of folks out there who are supplying that kind of information. If we’re not testing and exploring some of that together, we should.”

The Post Office Knows Everything About You

If the Post Office could collect data about your online purchases at Amazon, it could sell that data to Amazon’s competitors such as Walmart or eBay. If you bought a pair of shoes through Amazon, the USPS could sell that data to Walmart which could send you an email or a flyer about its next big shoe sale.

The Post Office probably knows where you live even if you have a PO Box. More disturbing is all the information the Post Office can collect about your life and your habits. It can even discern your political and religious beliefs from the books or publications you order or the mail you get from politicians and organizations.

It looks as if the USPS could soon be the next major threat to our privacy.

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