Canadaís Anti-Spam Legislation and You: An Idiotís Clumsy Explanation

Monday, June 30, 2014 9:00 AM

Canadaís Anti-Spam Legislation and You: An Idiotís Clumsy Explanation

Canadaís Anti-Spam Legislation and You: An Idiotís Clumsy Explanation

Those responsible for the majority of this spam don't care because they're not in Canada. They're in Africa somewhere or Russia or on some barge filled with cheap laptops and wireless routers in the middle of the Atlantic.

Like everyone in this country with an email address you have probably been inundated with numerous very polite emails lately asking your permission to keep sending you (hopefully) very polite emails for the foreseeable future. If the emails you are receiving are anything like the ones I am receiving then youíre probably getting messages from organizations that you already specifically gave permission to send you emails with updates and so forth. Itís kind of like that friend who calls to confirm your lunch plans for later that day. Itís polite and organized but still has a really ďtries too hardĒ feel to it all. But now youíre probably saying, ďwell itís that new law they passed. Companies have to ask your permission now.Ē and so forth. Well do they really? Who is this CASL stuff really aimed at and who is it affecting in the short term? Is it even going to work? Letís have a closer look.

What is the law?

According to the Government of Canadaís website, The CASL promotes 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.

So the people this law is going to affect most are anyone who makes use of commercial electronic messages, is involved with the alteration of transmission data, or produces or installs computer programs needs to be aware of this law. This is about the time when this new law becomes like a traffic circle: everyone knows one main rule (yield to the left) or in this case the bit about commercial electronic messages (CEMs) and then makes the rest up as they drive around in circles.

I can name at least three groups that Iíve received an email from telling me about this new CASL and asking for permission to keep emailing me. All three of these groups are non-profits and from my definition of CEM they donít seem to be trying to conduct any commercial activities with me. So why are they going through all this trouble just to be able to send me a weekly newsletter that I signed up for in the first place?

According to the Ontario Non-Profit Network, they say that if no commercial transaction is taking place then the CASL does not apply to you. They also mention specifically that newsletters that people already signed up for are OK. The only time a non-profit should have to ask your permission is if they are going to add your name to a new list that gets a different type of email newsletter or transmission. So basically most of these groups are just wasting their time and yours trying to make sure they are adhering to the law. Because non-profits do usually raise their own money from time to time it creates a grey area the size of Saskatchewan with what exactly constitutes a CEM, which is another reason why most of the emails you may be getting lately are from non-profits. Theyíre just trying to cover their butts.

Who doesnít care about the law?

The spammers. Also phishing scams, Nigerian princes, malware bots, heartbleed centipedes, basically anyone or any thing that makes their nut by doing something theyíre not supposed to be doing. Those responsible for the majority of this spam donít care because theyíre not in Canada. Theyíre in Africa somewhere or Russia or on some barge filled with cheap laptops and wireless routers in the middle of the Atlantic. A big spam boat in International Waters that doesnít care about Canadians or Canadian laws.

Will my life suddenly become infinitely better after July 1st, 2014?

In a word: no. Companies actually have a 3 year leniency period to comply to these new rules and to get your consent before they send you offers on jeans or community newsletters or alumni updates from your University. If you are a member of a non-profit or some other organization that is very keen on following the rules your life will definitely not get better. You now have more hoops to jump through in order to do something that is above board. The spammers on the other hand? Well who knows if they will even notice a change at all. Remember the Do Not Call List?

Offshore spammers will not respect Canadian Anti-Spam laws


Is this a toothless bill?

Itís probably too early to say whether or not the bill is toothless. Who are we to know what kinds of enforcement techniques our government is preparing? Maybe itíll be a team of Internet security warriors that patrol the tubes like that movie Timecop.  We can probably all agree that the law was created in the spirit of improving the lives of Canadians in some small way by reducing the amount of spam that comes at us each day. The problem isnít in the intent but in the execution. One silly thing about this law is that it is anti-spam and also anti-scam (phishing scams and other things where your information is taken for nefarious purposes) but that stuff was illegal anyway, wasnít it? The bill made the same thing illegal twice but still as unlikely to be a law that can actually be enforced. Meanwhile, all of us law-abiding citizens are going to be scratching our heads for the next week trying to figure out whether we can all email and text each other.

Should I throw my computer into the ocean?

I wouldnít go that far. No matter what you think of this bill or how it is going to affect you in the future, the one thing it has done is getting everyone talking about spam and email scams again. You can never hear these simple tips enough for avoiding spam and scam emails:

Don't throw your computer out yet
  • Any email that asks for personal or financial information is a red flag. Never do this. Banks always say that they will never ask for this over an email. Donít do it.
  • Many of these messages may try to impersonate a person or group that you hear from frequently. Be cautious and look for bad spelling and grammar. Coming from an English major this is ALWAYS the sign of an Internet scammer.
  • Did you win a vacation or a prize from a contest you never entered? Yeah...
  • Donít click weird links from people that DM you on Twitter with the message saying ďLOL I couldnít stop laughing at this...Ē
  • and change your password as often as you can and donít make your password PASSWORD (this coming from a guy who has had the same password for over a decade).
Jason Lee Norman

Jason Lee Norman

Jason Lee Norman is a writer with a beard. He is the 2014 Writer in Residence at the Edmonton Public Library. He is obsessed with keeping his iPhone over 75% charged.

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