on Nov 14th, 2011 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 28 comments
Out of 23 posts in industrialized countries, the U.S. Postal Service is one of the few remaining posts not offering an eMailbox solution to its citizens. And while there are private sector technology industry standouts in the U.S. that have developed widely popular e-mail and secure storage services, their business models sacrifice consumer privacy in the interest of ad-based revenue generation. In an increasingly digital world, it may make sense for the Postal Service to offer eMailbox services in addition to traditional delivery. A consumer would also be able to sign up for an accompanying highly secure data storage area service called the eLockbox, which would provide added security for the archiving of important legal and personal documents with anytime, anywhere secure access. Today many electronic documents, especially financial records, reside primarily on the banks or billers Web site and not with the consumer. The Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center’s new paper eMailbox and eLockbox: Opportunities for the Postal Service (Report Number RARC-WP-12-001) explores these concepts. This white paper is the fourth paper in the Digital series, and presents a case for offering an eMailbox and eLockbox. Some of the paper’s findings include: 1.As communication channels become increasingly consumer-centric, the eMailbox and eLockbox would empower individuals to transition to full electronic delivery at their own pace. 2.The linking of one’s physical identity and address to the eMailbox address will provide high identity assurance necessary for transactions, which require privacy, confidentiality, authentication and non-repudiation such as for legal and financial correspondence. 3.The Postal Service, offers protection from theft, interference, fraud and forgery under federal law, utilizing two law enforcement organizations (the Office of Inspector General and the Inspection Service). 4.Advertising mail would only be allowed from entities registered with the Postal eMailbox system and with the consent of the receiver. Together, the concept of the eMailbox and eLockbox services reflects a natural extension of the Postal Service’s role in the physical world as the trusted custodian of the nation’s address management system. The product provides a digital service linking American households and businesses in a trusted and verifiable way, while empowering consumers to determine the pace and extent of the service’s use. This product suite should be further developed as the organization implements new digital services. What do you think? Would you use a Postal eMailbox? This blog is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center.


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I came here to submit this same idea. Specifically electronically registered mail.

The Post Office is uniquely qualified to handle such a task. You already manage the physically addresses of hundreds of millions of people and businesses. It is a natural evolution to add/associate an official electronic address to those same people and businesses.

It would not take long before the USPS eCertified Mail system was _the_ system used by all US government agencies as well as the majority of businesses.
Such a system would finally allow for true tele-commuting as the exchange of official/notarized documents could happen electronically.
The transformation would happen quickly and it would have an immensely positive effect to the economy in saved transportation costs.

Thank you.
Tom Enderlin

Interesting that USPS has proposed various email and fax based services as far back as the 1980s. All were shot down by Congress or the BOG.

I would have to have a lot more details before even considering this idea. Official documents? Electronically? I have trouble trusting that and I'm sure many Americans will, too. You would really have some convincing to do to get people interested.

It seems like the concept of a "virtual" mailbox would be incredibly useful when interacting with government of all levels. Something along the lines of everyone having their own encryption key to verify their identity. Much like email, where you could host it anywhere but it would still be secure.


I have to agree with Marie. How will you ensure the security of the system? If hackers can get into the Pentagon and other high security areas, how is it that USPS can be hack free?

The only problem with any such solution (which I DID submit as a USPS employee via the eIdeas system 3 years ago) is the unique existence of the United States Postal Service. It is a quasi government entity - not funded by a penny of taxpayer money, but bound by congressional mandates and universal service obligations.

The responses I received to date have been cursory at best, save one point. Public companies already provide these services.
A government agency could not enter this arena without causing competitive disadvantage and being considered a "Trust". Privacy advocates should also be alarmed if the government's access to such electronic data were to be considered.

you guys are crazy

I would like ot see the Post Office to take on the tern if you can beat them join them. I sugget that in order to generate new business the post office should set up computer terminal for those who do not have computers charge a small fee for individual to be able to pay bill on line. Set up a place online where companied can advertise and get business instead of sending mass mail.

This is a fantastic idea! I agree. The USPS needs to join the 21st century. They are still doing business like they were in the 18th century, essentially, except the prices have gone up. Federally certified e-mail, personal e-mail accounts, accessibility at the post office to computer terminals (like PO Boxes) etc... the whole system should go electronic. This would eliminate the carrier position, reduce gas consumption and bring the USPS out of the red.

We have a new manager my post, he arrived at our location through a lateral.
His J-O-B is to monitor the fuel receipts, manage the physical sign in sheet, and or a number of other functions that were created so he won't reveal the location of the ahem... "lost souls".
We hit on the clock electronically, fuel electronically, and if we used the XDATA fleet management system (since the USPS invested million$ into it),
our every minute function could be displayed electronically.

Get a Grip on reality......

Let me add one more little tidbit (call it a tag to my previous commnent).
You call this blog section "Ideas Worth Exlporing".
I think in association with my last post, in these difficult fiscal periods, you should re-name it, "Ideas and Actions Worth Explaining".


I hope this isde does become implemented in USPS.....because then I will initiate a lawsuit against the same. I proposed this idea through the eIdeas system years ago. I will say no more.

Related idea: Many job applications and grant applications still require hard copies. What about a dossier service like Interfolio? I just spent $200 on sending job applications: $8 to send a 50 page paper copy of a PDF that I uploaded along with confidential recommendation letters, $6 for sending recommendation letters only (either email or post), and $4 for the first letter uploaded to a website and $1 per letter after that. USPS could be much more efficient than Interfolio because it could print the PDF at the location closest to the recipient and send it locally.

I think these types of services are great. I am personally signed up for Zumbox, Doxo, and Manilla. With that said, Zumbox is the only one I actually use as it is useful to me.

I receive my mail, i can pay it, AND ZUMBXO DOES HAVE AN E-LOCKBOX. Zumbox allows users to store all documents forever, for free. In addition, user can upload up to 500 docs in any format for free. I use this for older docs I don't have online, to keep copies of my family's passports and drivers license....

Pretty neat stuff. If the USPS can do it and get out of the bind they're currently in more power to them. As long as they're waisting billions each year, it wouldn't hurt to buy out one/all of these guys already doing it and implement the system ASAP.

That would be suicide for the USPS Janet. Think of your idea like a Thanksgiving Turkey. Most of them don't fly.
There are many-many-many postal employees to feed at the table between your hypothetical point A and point B. And those folks are as hungry as you, and those new car payments and vacation trips are expensive. The post office deals with tangible items (feely touchy) aka Hard Copy.
Your proposal suggests the turkey would have been consumed by the time it reached the destination. Including the wishbone, according to the GAO.
Most USB Flash Drive weigh around 30 grams/1oz., and are about 100 mm/1 1/2 and will hold 256 gigabyte (10,000 dictionaries). You try those instead of that unsustainable pesky ink & paper. Remember, the paper can only be recycled a few times. Most USB's can be reused 10,000 times.
Have a nice Thanksgiving (Cluck-Cluck)

Do the new USPS rules prohibiting employees from blogging apply to this site?

The USPS definitely should offer an emailbox. And give consumers the ability to opt-over from paper to digital mail.

I would love to not have to go to my physical mail box across from my house or at the Post Office to get my US mail. I would love to stay in my nice warm house and get my mail from my computer, retrieved from my ePO Box. Sweet!

sandi, the service you want is called mail forwarding for international mail (costs the same whether domestic or foreign addresses). The service can cost as much as $1 a page plus an annual fee Except for the cost my oldest son considered it for while he does Post Doc work in Germany. The companies image paper mail to send to the customer, but I believe what the Postal Service is offering instead would require that both the sender and recipient have to pick up eMailbox addresses for it to work.

USPS also tried offering the same service idea a number of years ago and it flopped and wound up costing USPS (or its predecessor) money down the drain. The only thing that has changed since then is that the e-services field is far more crowded and e-services involve intense competition, which I don't think USPS is capable of competing with unless if offers a legal advantage in proof of delivery and reading.

I believe what USPS has in mind is mailers converting to eMailbox at your request to send you mail electronically, which is more like the inexpensive forwarding service your cell phone provides. If it does not work well on a technical level you would just be substituting SPAM for bulk mail.

USPS needs to break the law and simply stop 6 day a week delivery, and if necessary reduce delivery to once every twp days. Delaying first class mail by closing 250 mail processing centers works directly contrary to reducing delivery days because it could ultimately lead to a four day delay before receipt, which makes it even less competitive with Email and E-faxes. .providing less frequent service. Competition is intense in e-services, which provide same day delivery. Online backup services provide he capability for lockbox, as does Dropbox.

The only service USPS might be able to offer and have a monopoly on is proof of delivery email with a return receipt file marker for the emails to show which sent ones have been received and then read. As a government creature it has an advantage in trust over any private company thanks in part to the Postmaster General's constant oversight.

USPS could bring in a great deal of revenue by copying what municipalities do with their busses: sell advertising! No other entity visits every street in every city and town in this country, and the valuable space on the sides of the mail jeeps should appeal to advertisers both large and small. Go a step further and envision a postage stamp depicting the logo of General Electric or Ford.

There's no need to tear your hair and say "we're broke!" Behave like a business --- and if you won't, kindly tell me why!

Dan Robinson -Pacifica CA

Just like other bloggers, I specifically came to this website to submit the EXACT idea! The most significant problem (and the main reason many people don't use electronic media) is the insecurity of their information being stolen. U.S. lawmakers have not come up with successfully enforceable laws to secure info on the internet and its users. If the USPS could develop electronic services with enforceable laws to protect the information sent and retained, (simillarly to the way mail is protected), it would be an extremely successful way to show the government can still work and get the post office out of bankruptcy. The price of keeping and sending information would be offset by the security of knowing your information has laws protecting it.
If electronic storage and transfer could be that secure and "snail-mail" was to become slower, I do believe ALL persons would use some sort of electronic media. It could be even more widely used if the USPS developed their own, "extremely secure" hardware that would send and store electronic mail in a simple format that anyone of any age could learn to use.
It's time the government stopped their squabbling, put aside their greediness, and step into the twenty-first century with the rest of us! (I know it's a long-shot, but one can always hope!)
Happy holidays and thanks for listening!

Wow, what a discussion! I've been suggesting this sort of thing for several years to everyone I know, it just seems like the common sense thing to do. Email isn't something to be afraid of or shy away from, it's not going away. I would think that the USPS reputation, "neither rain nor..." could apply to electronic use as well, with the security and service that would have to come with this kind of idea. It seems to me that the crux of the problem is that the USPS is a government agency, which has so many rules and regulations concerning competing in the open market and stuff, however they already do that with Fed Ex, UPS and others with physical package delivery, so why not electronically with Google, Yahoo and the others? Think of the revenue it could generate. Perhaps they should hire some of the internet gurus to help them get started. As for postal employees who may lose their jobs, I am truly sorry, this very thing happened at my place of employment, and I don't know how to stop it with the way the world is going. Almost all of us will be faced with this problem going forward, as technology changes and makes us change with it.

This eMailbox initiative captures the market that is comfortable with PCs, Tablets, and SmartPhones....and that is what the USPS must do to stay current, not reduce service and delivery speed as proposed by the Inspector General to meet $ shortfalls. But what about those who don't have, are not sophisticated at using computers, or don't trust the security of a home computer transaction.

What if the USPS could reduce transportation costs including fuel, trucks, air cargo and INCREASE delivery speed? They could shed cross-country trucks, reduce vehicle maintainance, and "green up" the environment. How about this:

The newest ATMs have capabilities to read checks, ask the customer if the read is correct, and give him a receipt including a photocopy for the transaction. Why can't the USPS use the same technolgy/equipment to accept a letter, check, legal document, etc, have the customer type in the address (or read the address if it's in the document header) and print out a receipt/copy for the customer. The delivery then transmitted electronically to either the nearest post office for printing/delivery, or if this eMailbox comes into being, to the recipients email account.

These USPS "ATMs" could be in every 24 hour boxstore like WalMart, Target, and in Supermarkets, drugstores, and of course, local post offices. So instead of buying a stamp, the user puts in his coins or credit/debit card, completes his transactions, and walks away with his receipt.

Ben Hirschenfang
Orlando, Florida

Its an old saying, but it applies:
"A day late, and a dollar short."
My opinion has always been that the USPS should be the leader in electronic communication.
Now the saying is neither rain nor snow... or bad internet connection shall stop... well you get the idea.

I think eMailboxes are a brilliant idea. I really hope this takes off and becomes real. In fact, why not go all the way and compete in the social media market. Make the eMailboxes customizable and allow download content. And allow businesses to provide content that could be used to decorate the virtual boxes. There is a market for a 'safe' alternative to the social media sites. The USPS could capitalize.

This needs to be free to the public and subsidized by advertising, just like web sites use user page views to set ad rates.
It's foolish to think that people will pay for a secure email box, when you can get a terrabyte of storage free at google.

Philip says,
I think this is a great idea and the postal service should get in on the advertising dollars. Why leave the one thing out that will bring in the much needed cash to be able to hire more people. The email business model is free email service, but includes getting ad dollars.
So what are you thinking, if you don't compete.