Document:California Press Release 4 May 1999 Private Mailboxes No Longer Private

From LPedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
400 Capitol Mall, Suite 900
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 449-3941
For immediate release: May 4, 1999
For additional information:
Juan Ros, Executive Director
Phone: (818) 506-0200

'Private' mailboxes no longer private under new rules, Libertarians say

SACRAMENTO -- New postal regulations will make private mailboxes "private" no more, may endanger individual safety, and represent another government attack on privacy that should not be tolerated, the Libertarian Party of California announced today.

"Why must government continue to erode individual privacy?" asked Libertarian state chair Mark Hinkle. "What's next? Eliminating unlisted phone numbers? Criminalizing the use of pseudonyms?"

Under the new rules, published in the March 25th Federal Register, private mailbox customers will now be required to show two forms of ID -- including one with a photo -- when applying to rent, and mail delivered to private mailboxes must bear a new address designation, "PMB," or risk being undelivered. The rules went into effect April 26th.

According to the Postal Service, the new rules are designed to combat mail fraud. But that sounds eerily like another recent government proposal, Hinkle noted. "It's 'Know Your Customer' all over again. The government just keeps wanting to invade our privacy."

"Know Your Customer" was the name given to proposed government regulations that would have required banks to develop profiles on every customer and report suspicious banking activity to the government. Thanks to a campaign led by the Libertarian Party, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation rescinded the proposed rules in March.

But the similarities remain:

  • The postal regulations will increase the burden on "Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies" -- or CMRAs as private mailbox businesses like Mailboxes Etc. are known -- by making them responsible for verifying the customer's identity.

"Mailbox companies have an interest in reducing fraud but not in inconveniencing customers," said Hinkle. "Their employees should not have to act as deputies for the Postal Service."

  • The rules will eliminate the privacy enjoyed by CMRA customers -- and may endanger some of them.

"Private mailbox renters often have very good reasons for keeping a low profile, such as battered spouses in hiding, celebrities, and law enforcement officers who want to keep their home addresses confidential," Hinkle pointed out. "The Postal Service is literally endangering these individuals."

Small businesses started in a home or a garage may rent a private box to give the appearance of having a physical office. "Thanks to the PMB designation, all that privacy is now gone and those businesses will probably suffer as a result," said Hinkle.

Even worse, anyone -- not just the police -- can request to see a customer's application information if that customer is doing or soliciting business from their private mailbox.

  • Most troubling, the regulations operate under the assumption that the customer is guilty until proven innocent.

"Just like with 'Know Your Customer,' the Postal Service is depriving the many of their liberties for the sake of a very small few lawbreakers. The problem is, criminals do not follow the law and will find ways around these rules while law-abiding customers are forced to sacrifice their privacy," charged Hinkle.

There's one crucial difference between "Know Your Customer" and the new postal regulations: whereas "Know Your Customer" was a proposed rule, the Postal Service has already adopted the new rules, having first proposed them in August, 1997.

"With 8,645 regulations adopted in the last two years, it's easy to see how this one slipped through the cracks," Hinkle concluded. "Libertarians denounce the new postal regulations and call on Congress to recognize the erosion of American privacy -- and to stop it before privacy goes the way of the Pony Express."