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Five Warning Signs Canada Doesn't Know What it's Talking About

12/11/12

By Ken Magill

Is it too much to ask government authorities to have at least a basic understanding of the issues surrounding the regulations they pass?

In Canada, the answer is apparently resounding “yes”—at least when it comes to spam.

A potential nightmare of an anti-spam law is slated to go into effect in Canada in 2013 and just last week its authorities published an infographic indicating they don’t even know what spam is.

The law is potentially nightmarish because it mandates permission, gives individuals the right to sue, and carries hefty fines.

The infographic, “Worried It’s Spam?” is part of related educational campaign. It lists five warning signs.

Thing is, the five warning signs are typical attributes of phishing emails, not unsolicited commercial email.

Here they are:

*Asks for sensitive information

*Impersonation of companies or people you know

*Uses scare tactics (for example, Will delete your account if you do not respond)

*Asks for money in advance

*Seems to goo to be true You have won a trip!

Granted, phishing is a type of spam and helping consumers avoid falling for it is a noble cause.

But if phishing emails are the focus of Canadian authorities, why did they pass a law mandating law-abiding companies get permission before sending email and giving individuals the right to haul them into court?

As I’ve written here before, I do not condone mass unsolicited commercial email. I simply don’t think government should legislate permission. If they legislate it, they must define it. And that’s when things get needlessly complicated.

The official name of Canada’s anti-spam law alone is an absurd exercise in convolution:

“An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act”

Um, okay.

The Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act is slated to go into effect sometime in 2013.

So let’s get this straight: Canada passes a law that puts law-abiding companies in its crosshairs to combat a problem that has already been largely solved with technology, and then as part of the rollout of that that law launches an educational campaign about truly criminal behavior committed by people Canadian authorities probably won’t even be able to find.

Am I the only one cocking my head to the side like a confused dog?

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2012-12-18 15:41:02
Subject: Much ado about nothing

Hey Jon: I truly hope you're right. And if it turns out I'm wrong I'll man up.
Posted by: Jon Raney, ThomasNet News
Date: 2012-12-13 12:24:09
Subject: Canadian spam

Hi Ken, If that's true obviously it would bad. And perhaps it depends on the business and the nature of the businesses communications I just don't see how the can-spam act of another country could be enforced cross country - logistically and also for example blacklisting processes that are implied for violating the canspam acts of the host country. How could that be managed potentially- the precedent for it. As it is now, we get tons of Nigeria, Brazilian and Russian spam still and we don't enforce this. We manage this best with can with shared lists and bad ip associations. In fact Canada (Viagara, meds, etc) could be considered among the offenders, this is why the are trying to get their act together. I maybe completely wrong but my bet on the impact to us is much ado about nothing. their laws are too ambiguous,complex and too time consuming to enforce
Posted by: Steve Henderson
Date: 2012-12-12 11:22:38
Subject: About to sell-up and move to Canada

Ken, I am going to love this new law and its damages awards. I am going to sell-up, move from the UK to Canada, start signing up on websites where the wording and policies are perfectly adequate, but a little ambiguous; and start makkign suing for companies having the audacity to send me an email when I freely gave them my email address but did not have to tick a little box. Of course, what I will do is target the small companies - the ones who don't have legal teams and will have to settle out of court. 2013 is going to be a great year!
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2012-12-11 17:42:24
Subject: Canadian Spam

Hey Jon: Thanks for the comment. Canada's anti-spam law has the potential to hurt any American company doing business in Canada. Come back and talk to me when some bank gets screwed over a stupid email mistake.
Posted by: Jon Raney, ThomasNet News
Date: 2012-12-11 16:36:17
Subject: Canadian spam

For me the question was, why everybody was abuzz here about the potential effects C- Spam Law on Canadian subs on US lists. since they were the ones in need of their own Can spam Law- however nutty their version came out. Plus they have no jurisdiction internationally. Or any real means anyway. The simple explanation would be "industry experts in blogosphere" drumming up business on paranoia

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