Canadian Senator’s Bill Aims to Crack Down on Spam

The suspension of Parliament in the ongoing political crisis is not likely to interfere with a much-needed anti-spam bill tabled earlier this year.

Bill S-202, the Anti-Spam Act, which received its second reading in early December before Parliament was prorogued, would crack down on spam by prohibiting the sending of commercial emails to Canadians without their prior consent.

Introduced by Senator Yoine Goldstein, the bill would also ban practices such as automated “email harvesting,” and would require all commercial email messages – even those sent legitimately – to have a clear subject line, accurate contact information, and an easy way to unsubscribe.

While Canada has a national privacy law, it is the only G8 country that does not have any anti-spam laws and technically it is not illegal to send spam emails in Canada.

“Canada needs this legislation and I really intend to be able to push it forward – I’m really committed to getting it through in 2009,” says Goldstein.

As well as providing police with new tools, Bill S-202 would equip Internet Service Providers (ISP) with the authority to block, filter and refuse spam messages. Upon giving reasonable notice, ISP’s would also be able to refuse or cancel service or refuse access to any person who has been convicted under the bill or who sends commercial electronic messages that the ISP has reasonable grounds to believe are sent in contravention of the bill.

Businesses aware that they were being promoted by spam would also be liable unless they took action to stop the messages or notify authorities.

Exemptions would be made for certain groups, such as charities, political parties, polling firms and businesses that have a pre-existing relationship with an email user. However, these groups would still be required to allow users to opt out of further messages.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first spam email ever sent.

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Privacy chiefs vow to fight surveillance together, call for global cooperation

A group of international data and privacy protection commissioners has decided to act together to challenge the surveillance society which they claim is developing. Commissioners from the UK, France, Germany and New Zealand will adopt common policies.

At the annual Conference of Data Protection and Information Commissioners, held last week in London, a joint set of objectives was adopted by the international commissioners aimed at tackling what they see as a growing international issue of constant citizen surveillance.

“The protection of citizens’ personal data is vital for any society, on the same level as freedom of the press or freedom of movement,” said the communique adopted by commissioners. “As our societies are increasingly dependent on the use of information technologies, and personal data collected or generated at a growing scale, it has become more essential than ever that individual liberties and other legitimate interests of are adequately respected.”

The document calls on data and privacy commissioners to support the establishment of an international convention on data protection, which first agreed on by commissioners in 2005.

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SEE: The adopted document (7 page/83KB PDF)

Lawyers ask feds to take action against nosy Internet suppliers

The 36,000-strong association representing Canada’s lawyers is calling on the federal government to take action against a “trend” of cyber spying by Internet service providers.

The Canadian Bar Association crafted a letter to three federal cabinet ministers after Bell Sympatico, Canada’s largest ISP, amended its service agreement with customers three weeks ago to reserve the right to “monitor or investigate” activity for possible reporting to government.

“We urge you to ensure that Canadians’ private information remains appropriately protected,” wrote Brian Tabor, president of the 36,000-member Canadian Bar Association.

The Bell clause, which took effect June 15, advised subscribers that the company retains the right to “monitor or investigate content or your use of your service provider’s networks and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy any laws, regulations or other governmental request.”

For more details, see:

Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun, July 10, 2006, “Bell’s move to monitor us an ominous portent

Ottawa Citizen, Friday, July 07, 2006, “Rein in nosy Internet suppliers, lawyers tell government

Canadian Bar Association Homepage, July 5, 2006, “CBA Says Monitoring By ISPs Could Erode Lawyer-Client Confidentiality

Prof. Michael Geist, Jul. 3, 2006, “Bell Controversy Puts Spotlight on Net Surveillance