Conservatives introduce anti-spam bill

The Conservative government introduced anti-spam legislation on Friday to help crack down on those who send unsolicited and potentially harmful emails and cellphone text messages.

The Conservative government introduced anti-spam legislation on Friday to help crack down on those who send unsolicited and potentially harmful emails and cellphone text messages.

Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear, on behalf of Industry Tony Clement, introduced the Electronic Commerce Protection Act during Friday's session of the House of Commons in Ottawa.

On Friday morning in Toronto, Clement said the new legislation would give the government more power to prosecute spammers, and help protect consumers and businesses.

"Our proposed Electronic Commerce Protection Act will deter the most dangerous forms of spam, such as identity theft, phishing and spyware, from occurring in Canada, and will help drive spammers out of Canada," he said in a speech to the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance, before the legislation was introduced.

The act would grant the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission expanded powers to deal with spammers, including the ability to impose fines of $1 million against individuals and $10 million against businesses, Clement said Friday.

Top Sources of spam by country
(Oct. to Dec. 2008) Percentage of total spam
United States 19.8
 China 9.9
 Russia 6.4
 Brazil 6.3
 Turkey 4.4
 South Korea 4.1
India 3.6
 Italy 3.0
 Spain 2.9
 United Kingdom 2.7
 All other countries (incl. Canada) 36.5
  (Source: Sophos) 

In a feature modelled on U.S. legislation, the act would also allow businesses and consumers to take civil action against anyone who violates the proposed legislation.

The bill targets not only those who send email spam, but also those who send unsolicited messages to cellphones, he said.

The law would also be enforced by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, which will monitor the collection of personal information via computer and the compiling of email internet addresses, and the Competition Bureau, which would handle misleading online representations.

The CRTC, Competition Bureau and Office of the Privacy Commissioner will also be given the power to share information with their counterparts in other countries who enforce similar laws internationally, "so that violators beyond our borders cannot use Canada as a spam safe haven," the government said in a statement Friday.

Under the act, Industry Canada would be a "national co-ordinating body" to expand awareness of the issue of spam and conduct further research.

Act addresses 2 issues

The legislation would address two issues the Conservatives promised to deal with during the last election.

In the fall, they said they would introduce legislation to prohibit the use of unsolicited commercial email to collect personal information under false pretences and to engage in criminal conduct. The government promised the new law would "reduce dangerous, destructive and deceptive email and website practices, and establish new fines for those who break the law."

The government also said last fall it would introduce legislation preventing telecommunications companies from charging fees to customers for receiving unsolicited commercial text messages.

How to fight spam

Protect your computer Spam is a growing source of computer viruses. It's critical that you protect your computer from virus-carrying spam messages. Install and regularly update antivirus and anti-spam software. If you don't have the extra protection of a firewall, get it.

Protect your email address Reserve one email address for your trusted personal and business contacts. Create a separate, expendable email address for other online uses.

Protect yourself Don't try, don't buy and don't reply to spam. Just delete it. It's a great way to prevent receiving more spam in the future.


"Today's announcement is good news for Canadian citizens and businesses, and will restore confidence in internet communications," said Tom Copeland, chair of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers.

Copeland is also a member of a 2004 federal task force launched by the then Liberal government that first looked into developing an anti-spam action plan.

Canadian Marketing Association spokesperson Ed Cartwright said his group supports the new legislation in principle, but said they wouldn't be able to comment on the act until they've had a chance to read it thoroughly.

Spam volume skyrockets

According to internet security firm Symantec's report published in April, the volume of spam worldwide increased 192 per cent in 2008, from 119.6 billion messages in 2007 to 349.6 billion in 2008.

Symantec said networks of computers that have been infected by malicious software and commandeered to perform a host of actions — called botnets — are responsible for about 90 per cent of all spam email.

Most of this spam is filtered out before it reaches consumers, with Microsoft reporting this month that 97 per cent of all email in 2008 was caught by spam filters. But enough sneaks through to be dangerous to consumers, security experts say.