Finland’s postal service, Itella, is to trial a new service which will see traditionally mailed letters opened and their contents scanned and emailed to recipients.
The new system will initially operate on a voluntary basis only and is part of a drive to reduce CO2 emissions and cut staffing costs across the service, reports the Telegraph.
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The process of opening letters and converting them into electronic documents is highly automated and will be conducted in secure premises with specially trained staff who have signed up to strict confidentially agreements.
Members of the public volunteering to participate in the trial will receive text messages or emails to alert them that a letter has been received and is available for viewing in a secure digital mailbox to which only the user has access.
Once the scanning process is complete all letters are returned to their envolopes and delivered in the traditional way to mailboxes in local stores, although physical deliveries will be scaled back to twice per week.
The service will commence on 12th April in Anttila, where 120 residents and 20 companies have already volunteered to take part. It has, however, sparked controversy amongst those with privacy concerns who liken the opportunity for Itella to read personal mail, including business and personal letters, to the activity undertaken in the past by the East German Stasi and the Russian KGB.
The Finnish postal service, Itella, insists that the trial is legal and that copies of letters are not retained. The trial will be reviewed at the end of 2010.