Paper takes an upturn


“If you want the rest of the world to know what you are up to, send your friend a private email”


A very true comment in my view, as recent developments have shown.  Not only are most of the government secret services of the world intercepting and storing email messages as a matter of routine, but it turns out that many countries, not to mention private groups, are regularly hacking into the world’s IT systems.

In simple truth, IT is totally insecure, and people with a lot of sense and savvy are now avoiding email as a method of transmitting anything sensitive.

But it’s more than that. Individuals, companies and other organisations are now turning away from emails and the like for the transmission of anything, be it sensitive or not, simply because they don’t like the thought of governments and others reading their every thought.

Which is all well and good, but it raises another question. What happens when you do have something that you want to write down, and perhaps send on to a friend, associate, colleague or anyone else?  If you can’t use IT, what can you use?

Well, the answer to that one is staring us in the face.  We use the post office.

Although the volume of material that has been sent through the Royal Mail has been declining year after year there is now starting to be a bit of a turnaround. Or at least there was until the latest price of stamps – which newspapers like the Daily Telegraph predicted would result in a “15 per cent fall in stamped second class letters and a 12 per cent drop in stamped first class stamped mail when the price of stamps rises.”

This is equal to around 1,000,000 fewer letters a day and it may well have happened, although I can’t find figures that will justify such claims.  However there are two good reasons to think that the story is just a bit of scare mongering.

First, as I noted above, some people are turning back to the post, when sending out anything of a sensitive nature (which could of course include what you just had for lunch – or indeed who you had lunch with).  

The upturn in relation to this may not be enormous as yet, but it is catching on, for one very simple reason. If you send an email, as I noted above, everyone and anyone who has a mind to, can read it.  

But if you send a letter, chances are, no one will read it apart from the intended recipient. Whereas years ago, the post offices of the world used to intercept mail on the government’s behalf, reading what we said before forwarding the letter, this has long since stopped.  All energy is put into watching emails. The notion that secret or sensitive information might be sent by the post is so old hat that no one has thought that it is catching on again.

The other reason for the upturn in the transmission of the printed, as opposed to the electronic, is that while the cost of postage stamps shot up, the cost of transmitting advertising via the post came down. 

This was a fairly logical move since for years the only thing that kept the postal services going was “junk mail”.  Given that the national press relentlessly campaigned against “junk mail” (because it reduced their own advertising revenue) it now seems amusing that they are getting worked up at the apparent demise of the Royal Mail.

Anyway, what does all this have to do with paper?

Well quite a lot really. Having taken the trouble to send your “not to be read by anyone else” message by post, it would be foolish then to keep a copy on your hard drive.  So such a copy as there is, is better kept on paper, and put in a storage facility.

True, if the representatives of law and order were to turn up and want to seize some paperwork, they would be able to do it, providing they had got a suitable warrant.  But that’s the point – they would need a warrant – which is a lot more than the people who delve into hard drives need.

So, it looks like the circle has been completed.  We are back to paper as the safest place to store anything. The wheel turns.

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