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Editorial: August 2014

Anti-spam overkill

August 6, 2014  By Patrick Flannery

The federal CASL laws go too far.

The federal CASL laws go too far.

Water is wet, the sky is blue and email spam is annoying. Some things you can just assume. I suppose I should be thanking the folks in Ottawa for trying to save me from the annoyance of spam through the Canada Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). It could be a hopeful sign. Maybe they will begin to tackle other annoyances, such as sunburn, dead phone batteries and foaming beers. And hey, what about taxes? Taxes are annoying. Maybe the feds will do something about them?

Maybe not.


In its no-doubt well-intentioned bid to save us from annoying spam, the federal government has overreached rather badly, in my view. Companies are now forbidden to send any kind of electronic communication to anyone (for commercial purposes) who has not actively opted in to receive communication from that company. The penalties are insane – up to $10 million. I should tell my wife that annoying me now costs $10 million – maybe that will cut down on requests to take out the garbage when the Blue Jays are on.

Maybe not.

It seems to me the problem with spam was never that a company was trying to communicate with you. The problem is with people pretending to be companies trying to communicate with you. Real companies, with a real need to avoid annoying their potential customers, have long ago cut back their communications to those few times when they actually have something new to say, or implemented opt-in/opt-out regimes of their own. The crap filling up your inbox with bogus offers for everything from Aleve to Zoloft is almost always from some obviously quasi-legal, usually foreign, source. And these are precisely the players who will remain completely untouched by this law. Law-abiding companies have frantically jumped through hoops (as we have here at Glass Canada) implementing opt-in programs and losing half their email contacts because at least that proportion of people will not even bother to open the opt-in email. The scammer spammers don’t even have to miss one automated press of the Send button, and people’s inboxes remain just as full of the stuff they don’t want and empty of the stuff they might want.

And, while I appreciate the government’s zeal in rescuing me from annoyance, I have to wonder where they were for the last 20 years. Like most people, I have already taken steps to reduce my spam annoyance to manageable levels. It’s called a spam filter, and I’m pretty sure most email hosts come equipped with them these days. What is the sudden urgency to protect us from law-abiding Canadian companies?

Here’s hoping your relief at finding less spam in your inbox equals or exceeds your annoyance in bringing your company’s policies into compliance. Oh, and please opt in to receive your Glass Canada e-newsletter if you have not already. If you have noticed you are not receiving your e-news (and don’t consider it annoying spam) you may have been opted out by mistake. Please drop me a line and we’ll get you back on the list.

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