Tech
United States Postal Service Letter Carrier Lakesha Dortch-Hardy sorts mail at the Lincoln Park carriers annex in Chicago, November 29, 2012. The USPS, which relies on the sale of stamps and other products rather than taxpayer dollars, has been grappling for years with high costs and tumbling mail volumes as consumers communicate more online.  REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTR3CKKA United States Postal Service Letter Carrier Lakesha Dortch-Hardy sorts mail at the Lincoln Park carriers annex in Chicago, November 29, 2012. The USPS, which relies on the sale of stamps and other products rather than taxpayer dollars, has been grappling for years with high costs and tumbling mail volumes as consumers communicate more online. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT) - RTR3CKKA  

The USPS wants to mine and sell data gathered from your mail

Giuseppe Macri
Tech Editor

The United States Postal Service is looking to get in on the big-data-for-profit game played by tech giants like Facebook and Google, and begin mining and selling private data gathered from personal mail sent from and received by Americans everywhere.

USPS chief marketing and sales officer Nagisa Manabe recently told the forward-looking PostalVision 2020 conference that the post office is “actively looking for ways to build new business lines around what not long ago might have been considered science fiction,” eCommerce Bytes reports.

While some of those ideas included new delivery services from partnerships like grocery chains, others seek to increase revenues from advertising by mining, storing and analyzing customer data. By mapping those datasets and determining consumer behavior, advertisers and retailers could target more effectively through traditional mail, much the same way Facebook and Google target ads based on search, profile, email and other data.

Manabe described an example scenario in which a woman test drives two different types of cars and two different dealerships while trying to decide which to buy.

“We’re at the point where, all too soon… We’re going to know exactly that she was shopping at two different car dealers looking at cars, and both of those car dealers should be mailing her communication about that vehicle, right?” Manabe said. “And we’re there now, folks. I mean, you all know this. There are dozens of folks out there who are supplying that kind of information. If we’re not testing and exploring some of that together, we should.”

Manabe described the obvious marketing opportunity as too big for USPS to pass up in the emerging digital world.

“As we know more and more about how consumers are traveling around and making their decisions, it behooves us to get involved and actually send them information to actually close the deal,” Manabe said. “For me, it’s all about speed and accuracy of the mail.”

Similar practices have been employed by Silicon Valley’s biggest companies for years, but have recently come under increased scrutiny since the disclosures of widespread National Security Agency bulk Internet and telephone data collection and surveillance programs were leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden last year.

The agency recently revealed private companies like Facebook, Google and others cooperated with one of NSA’s biggest Internet surveillance programs after months of denial, raising the potential for similar and ever greater cooperation between federal intelligence agencies like NSA and an independent agency like USPS.

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