One of the most effective ways to protect privacy
is to remain anonymous
or to use a false name (pseudonymity). There are many legitimate
reasons to refuse to be identified. Victims of stalking, for
example, may want to hide their actions and whereabouts. Governments
that believe in the privacy of their citizens should leave room
for anonymity and pseudonymity.
The United States Postal Service does not believe in anonymity or
pseudonymity, however. Its regulations of Commercial Mail Receiving
Agencies (CMRAs) like Mail Boxes Etc. make it illegal to receive mail
anonymously or under an assumed name.
The Postal Service’s Domestic Mail Manual requires CMRAs to get two
pieces of identification from customers and verify that they give accurate
name information and the address where they actually reside or do business.
CMRAs must forward this information to the postmaster and maintain copies
of it on their premises.
What does this mean for someone who wants to be able to receive alimony
checks, but keep a wide berth from an abusive former spouse? It means
the spouse has several ways of getting to them, thanks to regulations
that compromise privacy by requiring full disclosure of information to
CMRAs and the Postal Service.
The Postal Service has promulgated regulations that limit the availability
of the names of CMRA customers. The best approach to this problem, however, is
allowing CMRA customers to identify themselves only if they want to.
Application for Delivery of Mail Through Agent (Form 1583), U.S. Postal
Service (August 2000)
Register Notice Announcing Change of CMRA Regulations to Limit Disclosure of Customer
Information U.S. Postal Service (January 25, 2000)