David Poellhuber doesn’t seem worried that Canada’s recently passed antispam regulation will put him out of business soon.
Poellhuber is the chief operations officer of Montreal-based ZeroSpam. Bill C-28, the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, or FISA, clamps down on unsolicited commercial e-mail, forcing businesses to be able to demonstrate the receivers’ permission to contact them.
“We’re for it,” he says of the legislation. “We just think it’s badly named.”
Badly named, he says, because it’s not going to do much to deter spam artists. “It’s not going to change the spam you and I receive in our inboxes,” he says.
That’s because about 70 per cent of spam comes from botnets in Brazil, the U.S., Russia and other countries, and, “botnets don’t care about laws.”
The core of the legislation demands that businesses have recipients’ permission to send them e-mail – unless there’s a prior business relationship – and, just as importantly, makes businesses responsible for proving that permission. Fines levied by the CRTC can amount to up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses.
In a statement proclaiming “VICTORY!,” the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail (CAUCE) lauded the bill. “It’s been a long time coming, but Canada has an anti-spam law, and one which sets a new world standard,” wrote executive director Neil Schwartzman. It has a “tough, but fair, opt-in protocol for everyone in North America who sends commercial e-mail and other commercial messages,” he says.
I beg to differ on the “fair” aspect of that statement, without rejecting the need for legislation to deal with UCE. Given the context of who sends spam, legitimate businesses, not botnets, shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden.
As Poellhuber points out, after the law takes effect, businesses won’t be able to ask for permission to send e-mail, either.
And as to its effect, well, the U.S. has had its CAN SPAM Act since 2004. It’s still the No. 1 source of spam worldwide, producing almost 38 per cent of spam, according to CipherTrust statistics. (Don’t get smug; Canada’s fifth on the list, producing 3.25 per cent.)
Yes, the U.S. has had some litigious success against the most persistent and unapologetic spam artists. And, says Poellhuber, it will allow the government to prosecute “the most egregious” violators among the small per cent of non-botnet spammers that are proudly Canadian-based.