Bill C-27 gains support from Symantec spam expert

While many Canadian businesses have been lobbying to derail the heavily debated Bill C-27, the same sentiment is definitely not being shared among IT leaders, according to a Symantec Corp. anti-spam expert.

The anti-spam legislation, which entered into the final stages of review by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on Wednesday, looks to prevent unsolicited e-mail distribution in Canada by requiring businesses to get consent before e-mailing a person.

Earlier this week, the Conservative government scrapped its plan to include a loophole in the proposed Electronic Commerce Protection Act that would allow marketers to send out unsolicited surveys and product updates. The proposed exceptions would also have expanded the notion of implied consent to receive unsolicited e-mails, removing the need for explicit consent in case where a person has provided an e-mail address to the business in the past.

Matt Sergeant, senior anti-spam technologist for Symantec Hosted Services, said that cutting down on these restrictions and moving forward with the bill is very positive news for not only Canadian consumers, but also IT managers.

“There’s not a business out there anymore with an e-mail system that doesn’t have to have some sort of spam filtering,” said Sergeant, who’s also a member of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email. “It’s purely a cost centre for IT. They’re not gaining anything from buying that, other than getting rid of stuff they don’t want.”

“It’s not even like a service to get rid of your garbage, because garbage is stuff you are actually producing yourself,” he added, saying that none of these costs take into consideration the money spent on extra manpower at larger organizations.

According to last month’s Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence report, seven of the nine Canadian provinces surveyed receive in excess of the current global spam rate of 86.4 per cent. Some Canadian businesses actually experience spam levels of more than 90 per cent, Sergeant added.

Organizations such as The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses have been particularly vocal about the effect the bill will have on small businesses looking to promote their products over the Web. The organization said it would like to see exceptions added to the anti-spam bill that would allow for referrals.

“Their market is local and they depend on referrals,” Corrine Pohlmann, the vice-president of national affairs at the CFIB, told earlier this month. “Allowing them to send that initial e-mail out to that client is important.”

But the Conservatives have argued that a strict bill that will prevent spammers from operating in Canada will actually help Canadian businesses, many of which suffer lost productivity and clogged e-mail servers from spam.

With the Conservative exemptions now off the table, many Canadian organizations will begin to ponder what life will be like under these strict anti-spam rules.

For Sergeant, the bill will not outlaw small companies from spreading their message over e-mail, but rather force many companies to embody the best practices that many businesses already choose to follow willingly.

– With files from Brian Jackson,

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