The more we learn about government domestic surveillance, the more disturbing it gets. We know the government has its fingers in seemingly every computer and cellphone in the country. That's why some folks are going back to old-fashioned paper, envelope and stamp snail mail to avoid the potential of digital tracking.
Unfortunately, according to a new audit by the United States Postal Service's inspector general, you're not really safe offline either. It turns out that the USPS approved almost 50,000 requests from law enforcement and internal investigators to monitor American letters and packages.
It's no secret that the USPS can track mail around the country and report that data back to the FBI or state and local law enforcement. Laws requiring the Postal Service to record names, addresses and other info printed on the outside of mail are more than a hundred years old. This specific program is known as "mail covers." Nobody can open your mail without a warrant, but they can record your return address and name for use in criminal investigations with nothing more than a request from the authorities.
Thanks to a report from the New York Times, we now know that "in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization."