Revamping the U.S. Postal Service could help solve long-standing problems with validating identities in the digital realm and make email a true substitute for physical mail.
Identity protection remains the hardest nut to crack in cybersecurity. Much cybercrime involves using stolen identities to commit identity fraud or take over accounts, or stealing and selling identity information to enable these crimes.
Market solutions have thus far failed because establishing identities is a public good that only governments are truly positioned to provide. Thus, the Better Identity Coalition and other leaders in the field have looked to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to provide in-person identity-proofing services for online accounts, as it does for passport applications.
While the USPS role would be useful for the online identity ecosystem, identity-proofing services would be far from the core mission of the postal service today: delivering the mail. Yet with mail volumes down and revenues declining, the postal service needs to find a way to stay relevant in the digital age, or it risks privatization, as proposed by the Donald J. Trump administration.
Instead of taking on a limited role in in-person identity proofing, USPS should make identity services the cornerstone of a suite of new service offerings. These offerings would provide the security and privacy protections afforded by physical mail in the digital realm and help manage the transition away from postal delivery as a necessary service for most purposes.