U.S. Postal Service Unveils Electronic Postmark

Deputy U.S. Postmaster General John Nolan announced Thursday that a new United States Postal Service Electronic Postmark (EPM) is now available.

Like a traditional postmark, the EPM provides third-party verification of the time and date a document is sent. In addition, the EPM offers an added level of security to electronic messaging, which includes investigation of illegal interception or tampering with respect to EPM communications, and detection of alterations to postmarked documents.

The USPS stresses that the EPM does not encrypt documents or identify the sender or recipient of the message. Messages can be encrypted by the e-mail provider.

“For more than 140 years, the traditional postmark has stood for integrity in messaging. The Electronic Postmark will give online communicators a little peace of mind and add a level of trust and security that Americans have come to expect from sending a regular hard-copy letter,” Nolan said.

The USPS said the postmark is the first entry in a suite of electronic products and services the Postal Service plans to offer as Postal Secure Services.

Who Needs It?

The post office anticipates that EPM will be used when there is a need for “secure electronic transmission of financial and confidential data to detect if a document or file has been tampered with in transit and to provide evidence that a document or file existed at a specific time and date.”

Cupertino, California-based PostX is currently the only company authorized to offer the EPM.

R.C. Venkatraman, founder and CEO of PostX Corporation, said that the EPM “combines the integrity and protection of the Postal Service with the speed and convenience of the Internet.”

The USPS anticipates that the EPM will become available through other e-mail providers, and plans to “offer the EPM directly to customers at some point in the near future.”

Rumors Incorrect

The Post Office stresses that the EPM is not required to send an e-mail. In fact, the USPS has worked hard to debunk the rumor that it intends to recoup postage losses caused by the growth of e-mail and e-commerce by tacking a five cent fee onto electronic communications.

According to the USPS, “This rumor is still completely untrue. The Postal Service considers the EPM to be a value-added service and using it is an option for all customers. And, while the Postal Service’s alliance partners may be charging a fee, it would be for customers opting to use the enhanced level of security the EPM provides and nothing more.”

The Post Office stressed that the EPM is not a replacement e-mail service provider, but rather a new feature that can be added to essentially any e-mail if the service provider chooses.

Online Bill Paying

The EPM is not the Postal Service’s first venture into cyberspace. Earlier this month, the USPS announced its own online bill-paying service, developed in partnership with CheckFree and YourAccounts.com.

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