Careful With a Return Address
by Bill Rounds
How to Vanish
by Bill Rounds:
Family Protection Plan: A Personal Fourth Amendment
years now the United States Postal Service photographs every letter.
The photograph and bar codes are most likely used for routing the
letters. But knowing both the sender and receiver of correspondence
allows inferences to be made. Additionally, this information is
in plain view, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy and
no warrant is required.
reliable infromation from a USPS employee it appears the system
for photographing letters involves three steps.
only the front of the envelope is photograph and a light colored
color bar code is sprayed on the back.
the photograph is transmitted to a remote site where non-USPS employees
at terminals input the letters bar code.
a second machine reads the light colored bar code on the back and
then sprays on a regular dark colored bar code on the lower front
of the envelope. However, if the letter is bar coded, such as from
a utility company, then it likely will not be bar coded again.
while the duration for storage of the photograph is not known it
is likely less than a week.
There are two
solutions to avoid having a return address appear in the photograph.
include no return address. This has several problems because you
may not know whether the letter is delivered, lost, etc. or the
contents may be lost, fall into the wrong hands, etc. But it may
be the best course of action if you are mailing extremely sensitive
items or documents and do not want your address associated with
place the return address on the back of the envelope. Because only
the front of the envelope is photographed and because the postal
worker sorting a return from insufficient postage, an error with
the delivery address, lost, etc. letter will easily be able to find
the address on the back of the envelope therefore this seems like
the best action to take.
This also prevents
your mail from going to one of the USPSs three major mail
recovery centers in Atlanta, San Francisco or Saint Paul. If your
letter ends up in that purgatory then it will be opened and examined.
With the advent
of technology the use of snail mail is becoming increasingly tracked.
By putting the return address on the back of the envelope a key
piece of information is not photographed but is still available
should it be used. Additionally, using a ghost
address and other techniques and tools found in the book How
To Vanish will further enhance your privacy.
with permission from How to
Rounds, J.D. is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting
from the University of Utah and a law degree from California
Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic
and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal
defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and
financial freedom and civil liberties.
© 2011 How
Best of Bill Rounds