Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service

Ch. 1-Summary .11

E COM. Incoming messages are stored for 1
week in computer memory or on magnetic
tape, providing another target for security
violations. These archived messages could also
be tapped via the management information
system, since the E-COM computers in the 25
centers are connected electronically with this
system.
Congress may wish to consider: 1) whether
an independent review of E COM security is
warranted to ensure that adequate security
measures are in place to protect the privacy
of EMS messages, and 2) whether the Postal
Act and/or Communications Act should be
amended to provide additional statutory pri
vacy protection (including the possible man
dating of data encryption to provide additional
technical privacy protection).
Maintain Oversight and
Initiate Planning on USPS
Long-Term Viability
Although the immediate focus is on E COM,
and on providing a clear direction for USPS
involvement in EMS and resolving current
regulatory problems and delays, EMS issues
are likely to be with Congress for many years,
driven by the impact of EMS on USPS, the
role of USPS in EMS, and the broader impact
of EMS on American society and the public
at large. For a discussion of these broader im
pact areas, see the related OTA report on Com-rn
puter Based National Information Systems
(1981). Within this context, Congress will need
to maintain oversight and initiate planning on
USPS long term viability.
The following areas warrant further study:
* USPS initiatives designed to develop im
proved working relationships with private
telecommunication and computer firms;

* joint technical and market tests with pri
vate firms to evaluate various EMS alter
natives;
* use of EMS to help USPS maintain ade
quate service levels to rural and less pop
ulated areas;
* use of EMS to help USPS offset the re
duction (or elimination) of the revenue for
gone subsidy (which is provided to offset
revenue losses from mail service provided
at reduced rates) and permit continuation
of a lower rate to nonprofit and educa
tional organizations;
* use of EMS in the future in combination
with the USPS infrastructure (perhaps
scaled down) and delivery network to pro
vide other Federal Government services
(e.g, printing and delivery of forms and
documents); and
* USPS long range planning on the possi
ble need for labor force reductions, job re
training, adjustments in retirement and
new hire rates, and implications for union
contract negotiations.
In view of aggressive private sector Genera
tion III EMS activity and the continuing eco
nomic trends that work in favor of electronic
mail and against paper based mail, it seems
clear that Congress and USPS should begin
planning now for the future viability of USPS.
Changes are taking place so fast in the so
called "communications revolution" that by
the time USPS might actually experience sig
nificant impacts on mail volume, most oppor
tunities for participation in EMS will have
passed and it will be much more difficult to
adjust.

United States. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc39480/. Accessed December 27, 2014.