Canada passes world's toughest anti-spam law

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Canada passes world's toughest anti-spam law

Penalties up to $10 million.

Canada is set to introduce one of the world's most stringent anti-spam laws to combat junk mailers clogging up people's inboxes.

The new law bans the harvesting of email addresses for spamming purposes, and seeks to protect people from the collection of personal information. Known as the Canadian Anti-Spam Law or CASL, the new act also covers electronic threats to commerce, such as the installation of unauthorised computer programs (malware and adware) as well as alteration of transmitted data without express consent.

Penalties of C$1 million for individuals can be levied under CASL, or up to C$10 million for companies.

While Canada has prior legislation to deal with unsolicited commercial email, they were seen as having gaps which were allowing the country to become a haven for spammers.

Intense lobbying by electronic marketing groups has delayed the law, which has been in the works since 2004. It won't come into effect until July next year, with many of its provisions postponed until 2017.

Many countries introduced anti-spam laws in the early part of the new millennium, as the problem intensified. Sweden pioneered such legislation with its Marketing Act of 1995, and Australia introduced the Spam Act in 2003.

Wayne Mansfield and his company Clarity1 were prosecuted under the Spam Act by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in 2005. After proceedings concluded, Mansfield was fined $1 million and Clarity1 $4.45 million.

In 2009, Lance Atkinson was fined $210,000 for hawking watches and herbal products by the ACMA.

State of spam

Despite introducing tough anti-spam laws, Canada does not make it into the top-ten locations for abusive email senders.

According to anti-spam organisation Spamhaus, the United States is by far the worst country for sending unsolicited bulk emails, followed by China, Russia, the Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Pharmaceutical goods and replicas are the most common items hawked by spammers, who often use malware to infect computers to build remotely controlled botnets to send out large amounts of email.

Anti-spam product vendor CommTouch estimates that for the second quarter of this year, the daily spam volume stood at 54 billion messages a day. 

This is actually a large drop, more than a third less compared to January this year when CommTouch estimated spammers sent out around 97 billion messages each day.

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