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Stupid Government Watch: Canada's Useless Freezer


By Ken Magill

From the it-won’t-accomplish-a-thing-but-sure-makes-us-feel-better file comes news of a spam reporting center being set up by the Canadian government.

Reports the Montreal Gazette: “Dubbed ‘The Freezer,’ the new centre will accept unsolicited electronic messages forwarded by individuals, businesses and organizations in Canada, including spam, malware (malicious software), spyware, short message services (SMS), and false and misleading representations involving the use of any means of telecommunications, according to Industry Canada.”

The funding for this useless endeavor? A whopping $700,000 a year.

So, taking pay, benefits, office rent, cleaning and maintenance—oh, and equipment; let’s not forget equipment here—into account, Canada will task two low-level bureaucrats and an over-paid janitor with eliminating unwanted email messages from Romania.

Oh, they’ll bust somebody. Of that I have no doubt. My money’s on Adam Guerbuez.

But the Freezer will accomplish nothing—absolutely nothing—in the fight against mass, unsolicited commercial email.

Even the name evokes a certain amount of idiocy. SPAM doesn’t need a freezer, remember? That’s why it became so popular during WWII. One hundred thousand years after this civilization ends, the only trace of us alien archeologists will find will be unopened, perfectly preserved cans of SPAM.

Oh, but the Freezer isn’t just aimed at fighting spam. It’s also aimed at fighting malware, spyware, short message services (SMS), and false and misleading representations involving the use of any means of telecommunications, remember?

Why stop there? If a government agency is going to attempt to tackle a laughably impossible task, why not call it “The Everything Any Foreign or Domestic Business Does that You Don’t Like” task force.

That way, the Canadian government can say it is doing everything it can to eliminate everything annoying about capitalism without actually accomplishing anything—just as is the case with the Freezer.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but when Canadian consumers forward their spam emails to the folks running the Freezer, won’t all the important sourcing information be gone? How are they going to track the spammers? Through their sure-to-be-accurate postal addresses supplied in the messages?

Oh, that’s right. They won’t be going after senders who try and hide their location. They’ll go after those who honestly think they’re within the law—maybe some American firms whose executives they think they have only U.S.-based address holders—but have unwittingly run afoul of Canada’s new permission-based law while supplying accurate contact information.

And when the Freezer is clearly a flop, proponents will claim it’s because it wasn’t well funded enough. Then Ottawa will toss $1.4 million at the program to pay four low-level bureaucrats and a janitor to continue to accomplish absolutely nothing beyond making some people feel good about themselves.

Author’s note: This is nothing against Canada itself. I love Canada. I grew up just south of the U.S./Canadian border in Buffalo, NY. I spent many July Fourth holidays in Canada as a child—you know, that holiday every year where we celebrate the day we began driving loyalists so far up north their butt hairs would freeze off.


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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: Adam Guerbuez
Date: 2012-01-21 06:04:24
Subject: How much money are you putting down?

Since you got your money on me, Can we at least do the gamble in an offshore jurisdiction that will not impose taxes or caps on betting?
Posted by: Don Blumenthal
Date: 2012-01-17 18:51:08
Subject: Sharing

Ken posted while I was drafting my message about the Fridge. I can't speak for what the opinion might be of the current agency general counsel but that kind of sharing would not have been allowed during my time there. Don
Posted by: Don Blumenthal
Date: 2012-01-17 18:48:06
Subject: FTC's fridge address

I was about to mention the origins of Freezer but see that John and Steve beat me to it. I was in charge of setting it up, and remember when it got the nickname from the FTC chairman in a speech in Cleveland. Enough of the memories hour. The original address was but we changed it to awhile back. The volume of submissions was wrecking the systems under We were averaging over 300,000/day when I left the agency. And John is correct about the fridge's use beyond the FTC. In addition to DoJ, some state AGs also took advantage of the database to gather evidence for cases. Don
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2012-01-17 18:43:35
Subject: Oh, and by the way, John

Your RFP comment? Best. Zing. Ever.
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2012-01-17 18:38:18
Subject: It's still redundant

I'm sure the FTC would be happy to share all of its fridge data with its Canadian counterparts. At best, Canada's fridge is a redundant exercise.
Posted by: John Levine
Date: 2012-01-17 18:30:05
Subject: It's useful for criminal cases, too

The FTC's fridge is used all the time in both civil and criminal cases. I know DOJ lawyers who get evidence for cases about criminal spam for fake drugs, stock touts, and the like. Oh, and it's more than four bureaucrats and the janitor. Surely an ace reporter such as yourself spent a few minutes reading the RFP so you know what you're talking about.
Posted by: Steve Atkins
Date: 2012-01-17 16:55:37
Subject: It's a Canadian Fridge

It's s reference to the US FTC's "fridge" - the database that handles spam reported to That's been running for well over a decade, and the data in it has been used as evidence in quite a few FTC enforcement operations. Fairly high returned value for the cost of running it. If Canada intends to enforce it's new antispam legislation then access to potential evidence is extremely valuable - both as evidence for taking enforcement action and, more importantly, for deciding when it's worth taking enforcement action. You don't need to save many lawyers billable hours for that sort of data source to pay for itself very quickly.