USPS "Know Your Customer" Draws Fire

Eric Cordian emc at
Mon May 10 10:26:49 PDT 1999

Privacy advocates are beginning to take notice of the implications
of the new Postal Service regulations concerning private mailboxes.


SACRAMENTO -- New postal regulations will make private mailboxes
"private" no more, may endanger individual safety, and represent
another government attack on privacy that should not be tolerated, the
Libertarian Party of California announced today.
"Why must government continue to erode individual privacy?" asked
Libertarian state chair Mark Hinkle. "What's next? Eliminating
unlisted phone numbers? Criminalizing the use of pseudonyms?"
Under the new rules, published in the March 25th Federal Register,
private mailbox customers will now be required to show two forms of ID
-- including one with a photo -- when applying to rent, and mail
delivered to private mailboxes must bear a new address designation,
"PMB," or risk being undelivered. The rules went into effect April
According to the Postal Service, the new rules are designed to combat
mail fraud. But that sounds eerily like another recent government
proposal, Hinkle noted. "It's 'Know Your Customer' all over again. The
government just keeps wanting to invade our privacy."
"Know Your Customer" was the name given to proposed government
regulations that would have required banks to develop profiles on
every customer and report suspicious banking activity to the
government. Thanks to a campaign led by the Libertarian Party, the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation rescinded the proposed rules in
But the similarities remain:
* The postal regulations will increase the burden on "Commercial Mail
Receiving Agencies" -- or CMRAs as private mailbox businesses like
Mailboxes Etc. are known -- by making them responsible for verifying
the customer's identity.
"Mailbox companies have an interest in reducing fraud but not in
inconveniencing customers," said Hinkle. "Their employees should not
have to act as deputies for the Postal Service."
* The rules will eliminate the privacy enjoyed by CMRA customers --
and may endanger some of them.
"Private mailbox renters often have very good reasons for keeping a
low profile, such as battered spouses in hiding, celebrities, and law
enforcement officers who want to keep their home addresses
confidential," Hinkle pointed out. "The Postal Service is literally
endangering these individuals."
Small businesses started in a home or a garage may rent a private box
to give the appearance of having a physical office. "Thanks to the PMB
designation, all that privacy is now gone and those businesses will
probably suffer as a result," said Hinkle.
Even worse, anyone -- not just the police -- can request to see a
customer's application information if that customer is doing or
soliciting business from their private mailbox.
* Most troubling, the regulations operate under the assumption that
the customer is guilty until proven innocent.
"Just like with 'Know Your Customer,' the Postal Service is depriving
the many of their liberties for the sake of a very small few
lawbreakers. The problem is, criminals do not follow the law and will
find ways around these rules while law-abiding customers are forced to
sacrifice their privacy," charged Hinkle.
There's one crucial difference between "Know Your Customer" and the
new postal regulations: whereas "Know Your Customer" was a proposed
rule, the Postal Service has already adopted the new rules, having
first proposed them in August, 1997.
"With 8,645 regulations adopted in the last two years, it's easy to
see how this one slipped through the cracks," Hinkle concluded.
"Libertarians denounce the new postal regulations and call on Congress
to recognize the erosion of American privacy -- and to stop it before
privacy goes the way of the Pony Express."

Eric Michael Cordian 0+
O:.T:.O:. Mathematical Munitions Division
"Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law"

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