USPS Puts Stamp on E-Mail

September 20, 1996

USPS Puts Stamp on E-Mail

Americans will soon be able to put a digital stamp on their electronic mail under a project now being tested by the U.S. Postal Service.

Through the end of the year the Postal Service will be testing its first venture into e-mail protection by offering what it calls an "electronic postmarking service."

The system allows users to send contracts and other important documents over the Internet to the Postal Service, which will then "stamp" each message with the date and time it was sent. The system then adds an encryption key to authenticate the message and zaps it off to its destination. The service will cost 22 cents for transmissions up to 50 kilobytes large.

The system may allow government agencies to further reduce paper volume by allowing citizens to securely file government documents online.

The Postal Service will also archive messages so that users can retrieve them if further verification is needed.

Six companies are now taking part in a pilot program to test the system. USPS hopes to open the system nationwide sometime next year, with two added features, one allowing customers to have the Postal Service delay delivery, and the other to provide verification of receipt.

The Postal Service effort is part of a growing federal push to increase security on the Internet. The Treasury Department has announced plans to begin regulating Internet commerce, while the White House is pushing for adoption of an encryption policy that would provide law enforcement agencies with a "key" to secured messages for investigating suspicious online activities.

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