New USPS Forever Stamps Contain a QR Code

usps forever stamp qr code

Did you know that USPS Forever stamps now contain a numbered, QR Code which is of course scannable and trackable? First, lets tackle what a QR Code is. Wikipedia defines a QR Code as,

QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed for the automotive industry in Japan. A barcode is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached. A QR code uses four standardized encoding modes (numeric, alphanumeric, byte / binary, and kanji) to efficiently store data; extensions may also be used.[1]

The QR Code system has become popular outside the automotive industry due to its fast readability and greater storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes. Applications include product tracking, item identification, time tracking, document management, general marketing, and much more.[2]

US Mail Stamp Dispenser

US Mail Stamp Dispenser


A QR code consists of black modules (square dots) arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device (such as a camera) and processed using Reed–Solomon error correction until the image can be appropriately interpreted. The required data are then extracted from patterns present in both horizontal and vertical components of the image.”

Interestingly enough, QR codes were originally used in the manufacturing industry for managing automobile parts inventory. In recent years they have been utilized for promotional purposes by companies trying to link products and services to customers using smart phones. Now the QR codes can be found on the United States Postal Service stamps you use to mail letters.

Although you can purchase stamps at places like grocery stores and other common stores, the primary source for the new stamps is the US post office in your neighborhood (and online, of course). And when using the USPS vending machine to purchase stamps, you are required to use either a credit card or debit card (cash is not accepted).

And so when we put all these pieces of the stamp puzzle together, we can see that privacy and anonymity for individuals have once again been left in the dust, ostensibly in the name of convenience and technology. Advocates of the new system of stamp dispensation would argue that no one is tracking your stamp use and it’s simply an easier, high tech way of connecting with customers. But we should all question the placement of numbered codes (dispensed by machines that collect your personal banking information) on a simple stamp – especially living in a world where the NSA is admittedly listening to our phone conversations and collecting data on innocent US citizens on a daily basis.

Not worried about your privacy yet? Then check out this article promoting waste management using the QR coding system – tracking your garbage!

Apparently (according to the article) we should be more like the Chinese and allow authorities to track our garbage from our doorstep all the way to the landfill. Each trash bag has a scanned code which determines where each bag will go (and reverse-engineering, where it comes from). It’s easy to see that this use of codes creates a slippery slope of tracking systems, and the next question should be where does it end?

Do we really need to be tracking so much of our personal life?

We believe the answer is that a bold line should be drawn where our privacy begins. We don’t need all these tracking devices because it hurts our personal freedom and encourages government oversight and abuse of citizens’ rights.

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