Politico reports on a privacy concerns with a surveillance program to track mail vial “mail covers” in the United States:
Cutting-edge data-gathering techniques may have grabbed the spotlight lately, but it turns out the government has been playing fast and loose with a more old-school surveillance method: snail-mail snooping.
The U.S. Postal Service failed to observe key safeguards on a mail surveillance program with a history of civil liberties abuses, according to a new internal watchdog report that USPS managers tried to keep secret, citing security concerns.
The Office of Inspector General audit of so-called “mail covers” — orders to record addresses or copy the outside of all mail delivered to an individual or an address — found that about 20 percent of the orders implemented for outside law enforcement agencies were not properly approved, and 13 percent were either unjustified or not correctly documented.
Meanwhile, some of the safeguards set up to catch these shortcomings were missing: The Postal Service wasn’t regularly conducting the annual reviews required by federal rules. […]
The OIG report warned that the failure to follow established rules for mail covers raised privacy worries and posed a threat to the Postal Service’s reputation.
“Insufficient controls over the mail covers program could hinder the Postal Inspection Service’s ability to conduct effective investigations, lead to public concerns over privacy of mail, and harm the Postal Service’s brand,” the audit concluded.