Lost amidst the high drama on Parliament Hill last week was the release of Stopping Spam, the National Task Force on Spam’s final report.
Given that I was a member of the Task Force I’m biased, but I sincerely think the report provides a valuable contribution to the fight against spam in Canada and it would be shame if it were to get lost in the shuffle.
My weekly column (freely available hyperlinked version, Toronto Star version) provides some additional thoughts on the final report. I note that the report recommends the establishment of a new anti-spam law with an opt-in system as its cornerstone. This approach would distinguish the Canadian law from its U.S. counterpart, which contains only an opt-out requirement. Moreover, an opt-in system in a spam specific law will take the pressure off the current national privacy statute, which is ill-equipped to deal with serious spam issues since it does not provide the Privacy Commissioner with the ability to levy tough penalties or exercise order making powers.
While a better legislative framework is essential, a more proactive enforcement system is also needed. I note that the Task Force recommends creating a central co-ordinating body to foster greater collaboration between enforcement agencies and to provide oversight to ensure that anti-spam actions receive appropriate resources and prioritization. The central co-ordinating body would also keep private sector parties accountable by issuing regular public reports and would assist the public by establishing education programs and a central complaints mechanism.
I conclude by acknowledging that implementing new legislation may be difficult in the current political environment, but I caution that given the rising costs associated with spam, failure to act is not an option.