Government correspondence to you goes paperless. Yes or No?

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    Jan 19, 2009 5:12 PM GMT
    Would you support a move by the Federal Government issuing every citizen/resident an email address or accounts on a secured website for official correspondence from the federal through local township governments to send you information? It would ideally be run by the US Postal Service and you could access your account at either the US Post Office or public library free of charge if you didn't have access to the internet at home, work or other. This would include and opt-out for those who don't trust the idea or don't have access to computers at work or home and don't want to to go to the PO or library.

    Think about how much money would be saved and how much trash can be avoided as well as how timely the information would be delivered to you.

    If we go paperless with medical records... why not correspondence?

    If you agree... tell President Obama... http://change.gov/agenda/technology_agenda/

    -------

    Today I received a letter from the Veteran Affairs office telling me that my disability check was increased but I received it after the new payment had already cleared so the money used to print letters, make envelopes and mail the letters was essentially wasted. At best that was about $1.00 spent on me now multiple that by every veteran out there... that's a lot of money.

    I think an online service run by the US Postal Service under the same protections as regular mail (i.e. Federal penalties for unauthorized use/theft) would be a great idea.
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    Jan 19, 2009 5:49 PM GMT
    yeah, in about 20 years..the deal is that people that "need" government the most the very young and the old, and the poor don't have net access at this time.
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    Jan 19, 2009 5:50 PM GMT
    Alpha13 saidyeah, in about 20 years..the deal is that people that "need" government the most the very young and the old, and the poor don't have net access at this time.


    Right which is why the "opt-out" function would be necessary.
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    Jan 19, 2009 5:57 PM GMT
    Well, for one thing I won't be signing up for it until they repeal the Patriot Act.
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    Jan 19, 2009 5:59 PM GMT
    hockeynick79 saidWell, for one thing I won't be signing up for it until they repeal the Patriot Act.


    It's highly doubtful that they would monitor this email since it's correspondence coming from the government to you.
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    Jan 19, 2009 6:00 PM GMT
    Without going in to details and keeping it simple, I would TOTALLY!!!!
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    Jan 19, 2009 6:01 PM GMT
    Stig, do they mention anything about you being able to correspond or reply to those emails? Or is it only a one-way street?
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    Jan 19, 2009 6:08 PM GMT
    This was just an idea that I had because I got this letter way late. Although I am overseas, even if I was back in California, I would have gotten the notice a few days late either way since it was printed the day before the payment to me the letter was talking about was made.

    It could possibly be a one-way communiqué with information or linked email addresses enclosed as to whom you would contact if you have questions or if a reply is needed from you.

    These emails wouldn't be like your average email. They would simply replace paper notices you would normally receive and on the norm you don't typically reply to an FYI notice.

    However if this was something needing a response from you... I'm sure this would have a feature that would have "reply to" info either electronically or physical.

    This would be treated as real mail rather than "email" although it is in email form so it should have the same protections and features as real mail that the USPS handles... so I think that would take care of your Patriot Act concerns.
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    Jan 19, 2009 6:20 PM GMT
    What about dealing with junk mail? What happens when that important email gets spammed? I admit the idea is not bad! We could definitely save some money by doing that. Then again after we update the USPS to handle such a change over and also add the public access computers and repair of them will we still save money? I'm still deciding.

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    Jan 19, 2009 6:27 PM GMT
    CoastGuy81 saidWhat about dealing with junk mail? What happens when that important email gets spammed? I admit the idea is not bad! We could definitely save some money by doing that. Then again after we update the USPS to handle such a change over and also add the public access computers and repair of them will we still save money? I'm still deciding.

    icon_idea.gif


    Well I suppose the government could create a domain and have it restricted/blocked like a "john.doe@USPS.MAIL.GOV" and have a fine imposed for improper use... basically this would be an account for you and the government only... so if it gets spammed, the offender would would have to deal with the government once you report them as a spammer.
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    Jan 19, 2009 6:27 PM GMT
    I see what your saying Stig. I come from a different perspective because I've been a web developer for 10 years. If you reply to any of those emails it's very easy for the recipient (especially a government agency with clearances due to the Patriot Act) to fish your IP address and locate your computer on a network - a lot of credit card companies do this to verify payments.

    Knowing which citizen is on which IP address (or pool of IPs) would make it very easy for any third grade hacker (or government agency) to know everywhere and anywhere that you're going on the internet. Generally Internet Providers must be presented with a warrant before they have to relinquish your information to the Fed, this is protected by the Fourth Amendment.

    However, because of the Patriot Act the Fed is allowed to spy on anybody and everybody for whatever reason or suspicion they want to make up. This is not the same as obtaining records from an internet company (which is protected by the constitution).

    So that's basically where my concerns are.
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    Jan 19, 2009 6:31 PM GMT
    True.. but since then, after the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, the Congress reinstated having warrants via the FISA court so we again have judicial review.

    Besides, who says you have to access the account from only one computer...
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    Jan 19, 2009 6:50 PM GMT
    I guess my real concern is that there would need to be a written statement saying basically that the government could only use this to correspond to you, and that they couldn't use it to obtain any information from your computer. That would be legit to me.
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    Jan 19, 2009 8:18 PM GMT
    Only if they'd send it to my current email address.

    A government hosted server for email would be horrible. The h4xx0rz would be all up in that shit. You think people hacking Sarah Palin's Yahoo account is crazy? Wait until they hack this and have the name and address of EVERYONE in the country.
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    Jan 19, 2009 8:48 PM GMT
    Names and addresses are public record... "they" don't need to hack a site to find out where you live.

    Perhaps a government website would be best that would send you notices to your email to let you know you have mail.
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    Jan 19, 2009 9:07 PM GMT
    All the time that I worked in government labs, there were hundreds of "software engineers" working on cutting edge concepts, like shared servers, DNA sequence alignment, etc. Every time they finished one of their projects, the managers would try to commercialize it and sell it for something like $500,000 per copy (plus the cost of a dedicated mainframe to run it.) However, by that time, there were free downloads that would do the same thing a hundred times faster on a laptop. It's not the sort of thing that the government is very good at.

    Oh, come to think of it, last year at this time, when I was working on the gargantuan forms for my miniscule payroll, I had to sign up for an account on an IRS website, to get access to the forms that I needed. You know, like signing up for RJ or Facebook, or the like. With anyone else on the planet, that would take, what? 30 seconds? It took the government eleven months to approve my account.

    It's not the sort of thing that the government is very good at.
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    Jan 20, 2009 12:08 AM GMT
    mindgarden said

    It's not the sort of thing that the government is very good at.


    Mostly because they're still run by the older generation - and most of them... professional dropouts, because let's face it, politics mostly just takes charisma, the rest can be manufactured by the campaign manager.

    It will probably take another 50 years before the last vestiges of the 'tradition' in politics melt away and the guys who grew up in more progressive and tolerant times take the reins. As of now, the red tape is still too thick.

    Still, yeah, I'd like to see the transition. Less paper consumption is always good. Though I'm among those who still can't be truly comfortable with E-Books and still prefer the real thing.
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    Jan 20, 2009 3:21 AM GMT
    No. It's pretty easy for the government entity to "accidentally" lose or delete your correspondence. And paperless never benefits the people. It just cuts costs for the government, but the costs are never passed down to us.

    And I don't think I could trust the government or the USPS to run a proper mail/messaging system. Anytime technology is involved, you know it's gonna get fucked up or done half ass with security flaws galore. And let's not forget about the cost to build such a network. I'm sure whoever wins the contract will take full advantage and will bill the government for $500 mouse pads. icon_lol.gif