USPS Launches Electronic Postmark Service

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The U.S. Postal Service sold the first 2 million Electronic Postmarks yesterday to PostX Corp., an Internet communications company that offers businesses secure e-messaging services.


In general, the EPM offers e-mail subscribers a higher-level of security for their electronic messages: It can detect if a document or file has been tampered with in transit and provides evidence that a document or file existed at a specific time and date from a trusted, neutral party. It can be compared to USPS-certified First-Class paper mail.


"For more than 140 years, the traditional postmark has stood for integrity in messaging," said John Nolan, Deputy Postmaster General, USPS. "The postal service officially brings our trademark values of security, trust and tradition to the brave new world of the Internet."


The EPM does not replace an e-mail service provider's security features but is an optional feature that can be added to its services.


PostX, Cupertino, CA, currently is the only Internet-based delivery of secure and confidential communication backed by the agency, but it will be available through additional vendors in the future. PostX can send out 2 million messages with EPMs emblazoned on them.


"This is an innovative service that combines the integrity and protection of the postal service with the speed and convenience of the Internet," said R.C. Venkatraman, founder and CEO, PostX. "The postal service and its postmark have been a trusted delivery mechanism for paper-based documents for over a century."


Venkatraman also said that "if a business receives a document that has an EPM on its envelope -- but was tampered with -- the business can show that to federal authorities who will more likely investigate it than if it was just looking at a tampered envelope without it. It brings a lot of appropriate legal backing to it."


The USPS Electronic Postmark will:


* Offer an added layer of security to electronic messaging including the investigation of illegal interception or tampering of Electronic Postmark communications;


* Detect any subsequent change to the postmarked document;


* Provide a trusted third-party validation of the time and date of the document;


* Offer a high level of security by using encryption technology to protect documents.


The PostX secure e-mail transaction platform, called PostX Express, provides an infrastructure that enables businesses to deliver high-volume, targeted, personal and confidential information to each customer via e-mail and the Internet, while increasing per-customer profit and building customer relationships. PostX's customers currently include Ameritrade Holding Company, FleetBoston and R.R. Donnelley and Sons Company.


By using the EPM, FleetBoston Financial, for example, will be able to provide their subsidiaries, such as SureTrade, with the advantage of instantaneously receiving secure trade confirmations via a protected e-mail exchange.


"The [EPM] 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 [through the USPS]," Venkatraman said.


The USPS said that the EPM represents the first in a suite of electronic products and services offered by the USPS under the umbrella concept of Postal Secure Services.

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