• Dec 20th 2010 at 6:01PM
  • 21
The U.S. Post Office is having a rough run of things. With expenses increasing at every corner, our nation's mail system is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Needless to say, the institution is currently looking into extra ways to rake in cash that doesn't involve hiking the price of stamps. Michael Ravnitzky, Counsel to the Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, has come up with a pretty clever plan that could turn postal vehicles into high-tech havens capable of pulling down information on everything from weather and air pollution to road conditions and public safety.

The premise is simple: slap a cheap set of data recording equipment on the roof of each mail truck and then sell the collected data to interested parties. The trucks could be calibrated to warn of biological or radiological attacks to alert the defense department or simply provide a larger sample group for meteorological study. The post office could even lease space on its vehicles for whatever sort of data collection equipment government agencies or private entities could dream up, and Ravnitzky says that it could even be used to fill in blank spots in cell phone coverage. Of course, the likelihood of this coming to fruition seems pretty slim. After all, this is the federal government we're talking about...

[Source: The New York Times | Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sounds like more of the same police state, spy grid already in place. And... None of it even resembles profitability anyway? At best it shuffles the same, stolen federal money around from one waste to another.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sounds like a good idea.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Congrats, you have just set a record -- two excellent comments regarding one article. I appreciate that.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'd rather have a government controlled information network than an antiquated mail delivery system that people are using less and less. Let the USPS die, save the internet and TV from money grubbing corporations instead.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Do you NOT value your freedom? China ... Google ... enough said.

        As antiquated as snail mail is, they still serve a necessary purpose in life. If they weren't around, do you think UPS and FedEx would be as cheap as they are now? Probably not, as there wouldn't be a good baseline to price-check against.

        As it is, for many of the items I buy/sell on eBay, USPS comes out to be more cost effective than either of the two private delivery companies.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Another backdoor attempt at spying on American citizens without anyone asking questions.


      Privacy anyone? What exactly are they going to do with this information? Oh yeah, "the war on terror." We need to protect the "homeland."


      Wake up people.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Q: What is a good way for a person to tell that they are dangerously close to "crazy"
        A: You notice yourself using the phrase "Wake up people"
      • 4 Years Ago

      Is this a bad idea as in, costing the american taxpayers and postal customers even more to surveil anyone and everyone?

      Or is it a bad idea as in, a US government agency being subsidized by a company like Google, to surveil anyone and everyone, and sell off the information?

      Do we really need the USPS doing this? is that really a pressing issue?

      How about getting the mail delivered, and not going broke doing it, first?
        • 4 Years Ago
        that last part is why they are talking about doing this. The postal service is on the brink of collapse now that their business model has been destroyed by email and the internet. Nobody is sending letters anymore and I don't think I've received a package from the USPS in 5 years.

        Now, if these things are set up to survey weather, air quality and to boost cell phone reception I'm all for it. If we start putting camera's and wifi trackers on them, there's going to be a problem.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Those are all some really good questions that people should stop and consider very carefully.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't personally see why the USPS has to be a profit making enterprise. It's not like we count on something like the Military to make us money so subsidizing the mail isn't a big deal to me. However if people want to pay for ad space or some harmless data collecting to reduce/eliminate the subsidies then I have no problem with that.
        • 4 Years Ago
        all right,

        a) I don't understand how this would cost more money. They could lease space on the trucks for instrumentation.

        b) As Mark Zuckerberg has stated multiple times privacy is dead. Every website you go to is logged by your isp and probably the NSA as well.

        c) Why not? companies adapt all the time. If USPS doesn't start doing something like this i wouldnt be surprised to see UPS or FedEx doing something of this nature. Would be a great way for Google to get hardware out in the field and the company trucks they use would get advertising out of it or something.

        d) mail is dieing off. They need to adapt. If companies like FedEx and UPS were the only main shipping parcel companies left would you expect for the prices of shipping to stay low?
        • 4 Years Ago
        The USPS is essentially required to be unprofitable by its restrictive charter and short-sighted overseers.

        Here they're trying to leverage the huge fleet that they're required to operate and offset its cost. I hope they can make something work.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Anyone seen V for Vendetta?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Still won't help it get delivered in my town.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Seems reasonable to me, as long as it stays "in control" and theres not any "big brother" kinds of things going on.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This writer must be employed by the CIA. Postal trucks gathering info, screw that find another way to make money.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am sure American Fusion Centers would be the first U.S Gov't agency to use the postal service trucks as a "data collection" device. This is a scary idea to me, allowing the government to dream up whatever data collection technology they want to slap onto these trucks.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I agree with BoxerFanatic about the government's role in this data gathering scheme. Why? The USPS's job is to deliver mail, not collect data and sell it to whoever wants it. Who's to say the government doesn't "accidentally" nab all sorts of private digital information like Google did? What sort of paying customers would the government apologize to or risk their profitability? They don't have to worry about that because their income is enforced by law.

      Every sector of government needs to focus on acting its proper role without going bankrupt before they take on some stupid project like this that would be better left to private enterprise. Like Google. Who, if I'm not mistaken, already does this.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The USPS is technically independent of the US government, and has been for a few decades. They're supposed to operate as a private company. They don't receive taxpayer dollars. So if they can find another way to generate money by selling services while they're doing the things they're supposed to be doing (delivering mail and packages) then more power to them. Especially if it's useful stuff. I think the atmospheric monitoring idea is a good one.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Thats a great smart idea. Hence they won't even consider it.
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