In Germany, the postal service will now open mail and send it via email — if customers ask.
Under a digitization pilot program by Germany’s national post, consumers will be able to forfeit privacy for convenience, receiving their mail in digital format anywhere in the world.
It might be welcomed by people who want to stay in the loop while away, but the idea poses larger questions about privacy and data retention.
Customers choosing “e-scan” waive their right to privacy, since it is necessary for a machine to open and scan the letters for a short time, according to Deutsche Post.
A few private start-ups offer similar services for small business and individuals looking to digitally archive their mail.
The Deutsche Post price point might be a way to bring customers back to the national service, which has struggled to stay competitive in an increasingly digitized world.
The Deutsche Post promotion price for e-scan services will cost 5 Euros (about US $5.74) per month, until July. The cheapest of the private services currently costs almost twice, according to the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
But it has a catch: Only letters and postcards will be scanned. Vacationers hoping for a digitized copy of a glossy magazine on the beach still will have to collect those bigger items from a physical mailbox.