Tuesday, March 11, 2003

us postal email

I came across an interesting discussion regarding the US Postal Service today. It struck me that we place a lot of faith in the delivery of mail. A lot more than we do in email.

The mail goes through. Well, most of the time, the mail gets delivered when and where it is supposed go correctly. Sometimes there are problems. But, the postal service is trying new things to improve their service.

So, when a thread over at Webmasterworld began with the question, "Can you go to jail for filtering email," I thought that it was an interesting query. Especially when it was followed up with, "The answer is YES if it has an USPS Electronic Postmark."

Exactly what does a USPS Electronic Postmark do for us? Might it impose a potential liability upon an ISP filtering mail on behalf of their client? Will the use of US postal emails help to reduce unwanted commercial email?

They're interesting questions, and I think that the Webmasterworld thread may have come close to an answer. But, it's an uncharted territory. When a letter is delivered to your door, it doesn't leave the possession of a mail carrier. Electronic delivery relies upon a stream of travel outside of the control of the postal service. There's no physical space tied to a sender's address, and a receiver's address. Would someone who wanted to send and receive email with electronic postmarks have to register with the post office?

I have more questions than answers myself. I might just have to contact the Post Office for more information, and see what their responses about filtering, and about registration might be. The idea of encryption and digital authentication, backed by statutes for criminal liability for illegally tampering with a postmarked email are interesting. What other implications might the service have?

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