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

Ch. 7-Telecommunication and Computer Industries, EMS Privacy and Security, and USPS Long-Term Viability .81

The nature of an EMS service raises some
security concerns beyond those encountered
in conventional mail delivery. Because mes
sages may be stored for some time (1 week in
the case of E-COM), there is the potential for
access to an historical file of traffic. Also, EMS
systems could easily produce extensive data
on sender addressee patterns. Finally, the
hardcopy output of EMS systems maybe vul
nerable to unauthorized inspection at the point
of printing and/or enveloping. None of these
types of security intrusion can be performed
as easily or as efficiently in the conventional
mail system.
In these respects, electronic mail is more vul
nerable than conventional mail. Any EMS al
ternative that involves telecommunications,
whether offered by USPS or by private firms,
faces the threat of interception and monitor
ing of telephone, microwave, and/or satellite
transmissions. While available data encryp
tion technology can help to secure telecommu
nication systems, most transmissions at pres
ent are unencrypted and therefore intercep
table. To the extent EMS services include
growing volumes of sensitive personal, busi

ness, and financial information, the incentives
to intercept such messages would increase.
Some security experts have recommended
that USPS provide, in cooperation with tele
communication carriers, an "electronically
sealed" message service that offers protection
(through encryption) at least equivalent to
that of conventional first class mail.
Electronic mail is also vulnerable to securi
ty threats at the electronic switching and com-
puter locations (including printing and en
veloping functions). The security of conven
tional mail is protected by sealed envelopes,
diligent monitoring of postal employee activ
ities, locked delivery and route mailboxes, and,
as discussed earlier, a variety of postal stat-
utes that provide criminal sanctions for unlaw
ful intrusion by postal employees or private
parties. Additional new security measures will
be necessary at switching and computer cen
ters involved in providing electronic mail."
"For further discussion of privacy and security, see chs. 4
and 5 of the OTA background paper on Selected Electronic
Funds Transfer Issues: Privacy, Security, and Equity,
OTA- BP CIT-12, March 1982.

USPS Long-Term Viability

The results of the OTA analysis indicate
that, regardless of what role USPS plays in
Generation II electronic mail, reductions in
conventional mail volume due to diversion to
Generation III EMS and EFT could reach sig
nificant levels by 2000. The threat to conven
tional mail could come even sooner if Genera
tion III EMS services (all electronic) develop
faster than currently anticipated, if the under
lying growth in the mainstream is less than the
historical average, or if diversion of second
and third class mail to alternative (nonelec
tronic) delivery services increases significantly
beyond current levels.
Moreover, almost surely by 2000, probably
by 1995, and perhaps as early as 1990, Genera
tion III EMS and EFT are likely to catchup
to and pass Generation II while it begins to

decline. At that point, the volume and revenue
"cushion" from Generation II EMS would be
reduced, and significant rate increases and/or
service and labor force reductions would be
likely in order for USPS to maintain a break
even operation without increased public
subsidies.
Should Congress concern itself about this
possibility now? While the market penetration
projections could change somewhat given dif-
ferent assumptions, the only kinds of changes
that could radically alter the projections would
be a growth rate in the underlying mainstream
50 or 100 percent above the historical average,
or a significant delay in the development and
introduction of Generation III EMS and EFT
services. Neither of these seems very likely in
view of aggressive private sector Generation

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 September 16, 2014.