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Ken Magill

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Canada Saves World Again, Um, Not Really

6/30/15
 
By Ken Magill
 
Boy, when Canadian authorities decide they’re going to rid the world of a certain type of scourge, they’re like Jack Russell Terriers on a fox hunt.
 
There’s just no quit in these people.
 
Once again, Canada’s benevolent overlords have wisely channeled their wrath against one of the world’s largest spammers—um, that is one of the world’s largest spammers operating out of a small island in Toronto.
 
Oh, and it appears the company wasn’t even spamming, as in sending messages it never had permission to send.
 
From a government press release yesterday: “The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today announced that Porter Airlines Inc. has agreed to pay $150,000 as part of an undertaking for alleged violations of Canada’s anti-spam legislation. Once made aware of the investigation by the CRTC, Porter Airlines was cooperative and immediately took corrective actions to comply with the legislation.
 
“An investigation launched by the CRTC’s Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer alleged that Porter Airlines failed to comply with various requirements of the law between July 2014 and April 2015. The company allegedly sent some commercial emails that did not contain an unsubscribe mechanism. In other instances, it is alleged this mechanism was not clearly or prominently set out. Certain emails also allegedly did not provide the complete contact information as required by the law. Porter Airlines also allegedly failed to honour, within 10 business days, requests from some recipients to unsubscribe from receiving future commercial emails.
 
“In addition, for certain emails sent between July 2014 and February 2015, the company was unable to provide proof that it had obtained consent for each electronic address that received its commercial emails.”
 
Porter is a regional airline that operates out of an island airport in Toronto that is accessible only by ferry. It flies to 22 cities in Canada and the U.S. using Bombardier turboprops. It has a grand total of 26 aircraft.
 
It also has a long history of deeply troubling behavior. From Wikipedia: “At the September 2009 annual meeting of the [Toronto Port Authority], it was disclosed that Porter has broken its 11 p.m. curfew for landing at the airport three times in 2009, each time incurring a $5,000 fine. On one occasion, a Porter plane landed at the airport after-hours even after being advised by controllers to land at Pearson.”
 
Got that? It broke its curfew not once, but three times in 2009. Bastards. Porter’s pilots also probably go swimming less than a half hour after they eat.
 
The Canadian anti-spam law’s one-year anniversary is Wednesday. It’s amazing the CRTC didn’t hold off on this earth-shattering announcement until then.
 
To truly send a message, they could have done a perp-walk with Porter’s CEO. “If your unsubscribe links don’t work quite properly, this could be you.”
 
This was the second time the CRTC has gone after a company over its unsubscribe mechanism.
 
The CRTC announced in March it fined online dating company Plentyoffish Media $48,000 for allegedly violating Canada’s anti-spam law by failing to provide an unsubscribe mechanism that met with CRTC approval.
 
That news came on the heels of the CRTC’s announced $1.1 million anti-spam enforcement action against Quebec-based management-training firm Compu-Finder—so far, the sole substantial fine levied under CASL.
 
Last October, the CRTC made its first announcement related to CASL. It had alerted an ISP to a client’s malware-infected server which was promptly fixed.
 
I am often embarrassed by the actions of the American Federal Trade Commission. They got nothin’ on the CRTC.
 
The FTC has at least bagged some real criminal spammers.
 
Under CASL, the CRTC has fined one B-to-B marketer, one dating site and now a small regional airline.
 
And only one fine was an actual, you know, punative fine. The other two were akin to traffic citations issued over broken taillights. Though on principle, the two smaller fines are pretty galling.
 
The CRTC is accomplishing nothing for individual Canadians they couldn’t accomplish themselves by simply hitting their “report spam” buttons.
 
Note to Canadians: In order for CRTC bureaucrats to get paid, you must first create wealth through your own hard work. Then some of that wealth must be taken from you to pay them. They get nothing unless you earn it first.
 
The next time you’re busting your ass trying to meet a deadline, think about the fact that CRTC officials will be spending part of your resulting paycheck policing unsubscribe buttons. 
 
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