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surveillance nation

The government is tracking your physical mail, too

The last year has been marked by revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden of just how much the government monitors our electronic communication. Now, a new report from The New York Times shows that Big Brother is going old school, too: In 2013 alone, the Postal Service granted some 50,000 requests from the government for secret surveillance of Americans' mail.

This monitoring program is called "mail covers," and much like the NSA's spying, it focuses on metadata, not content: USPS workers track who your mail is from, when it's sent, and any other information they can glean from the outside of the envelope or package.

"In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime," said Mark D. Rasch, a former Justice Department expert on computer crimes. "Now it seems to be, 'Let's record everyone's mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.' Essentially [they've] added mail covers on millions of Americans."