Anti-spam laws could be in place within months: Ottawa
Published Wednesday, May 26, 2010 6:54AM EDT
OTTAWA - The long wait for protection against identity theft and anti-spam legislation may be nearing an end.
Industry Minister Tony Clement tabled two bills Tuesday which he admitted were long overdue, citing his own wife as proof that reforms are needed.
"Canada is seen as a haven for spammers because of the gaps in our current legislation... a place where spammers can reside and inflict their damage around the world," he said.
He estimated that spam currently costs Canadians $3 billion a year, spent on security systems meant to block out fraudulent or unwanted solicitations over computers and wireless devices, as well as loss of productivity.
And there is also a need for greater protection against Internet identity theft, he said, noting that even "the smartest person in the world" -- his wife Lynne -- can be taken in.
Last year, Clement's wife was tricked into answering an online questionnaire from what she thought was her bank. It wasn't.
"Within a day she got a call from the bank saying, 'Did you know your credit card is being used in Peru right now?' My wife is a lawyer, but all it takes is one moment of inattention and you become a victim."
Most advanced countries in the world have had similar legislation on the books for years, and Clement said that if all goes well, the bills will be law by the end of the year.
The government had passed an almost identical anti-spam bill in December, but it died before making it through the Senate when Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament for a "recalibration" of the government's agenda. The opposition charged Harper was trying to avoid embarrassing committee hearings over whether Canadian soldiers were turning Afghan detainees over to possible torture.
Under the current legislation, the government will establish a spam-reporting centre to work with government enforcement agencies with the power to shut down sites.
Charities, political parties, pollsters and businesses with an established relationship with a recipient would be exempt from the new controls.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce welcomed the bill, saying it will help reduce "unwanted and unsolicited emails that clog up e-mail systems, cost productivity, violate privacy, and often promote fraud."
The proposed legislation is not as strong as it could be, said Michael Geist, an e-commerce lawyer at the University of Ottawa, but he too said the bill was long overdue.
"The bill is not perfect -- it's the product of considerable compromise -- but given how long it has taken to get to this point, I think most will be supporting swift passage," he said.
At a news conference, Clement admitted that the bills won't deter all scam artists or commercial spamming.
But he Australia quickly dropped out of the top 10 spam-originating countries after it passed similar legislation in 2004. Canada is currently ninth on the list, according to www.spamhaus.org.