MONTREAL - One prominent Internet law expert says Ottawa has backed down on elements of its touted anti-spam regulations after an outcry from business.
More than two years after the bill was passed, the government released another draft of the regulations last Friday.
The goal of the law is to protect Canadians from unsolicited email and text messages, computer viruses and other electronic threats.
But Michael Geist, an Internet law expert at the University of Ottawa, said Industry Canada has been facing pressure from business groups to water down the legislation.
"What we've had is the government passing a law two years ago, coming up with regulations that were fairly consistent with what they said they were trying to achieve, and facing a big backlash from a number of business groups," Geist said in an interview.
The result, he said, is that the government has "opened up some major new exceptions that didn't exist in the law before."
The anti-spam bill was passed in December 2010 but has yet to be enforced.
Geist said the latest draft includes new exemptions for when businesses can send commercial messages.
Those include a broader definition of what consistutes a "personal relationship" — a term that could be used by organizations to send commercial messages without consent — and a greater exception for third-party referrals.
The draft also includes a provision that gives companies a three-year period to conform to the new regulations when it comes to existing agreements with customers.
That means companies will likely have until 2017 to fully comply if the law is put into effect at the end of this year, Geist said.
Industry Canada has given interested parties 30 days to respond with suggestions to the latest draft.
The department said the legislation will protect consumers while allowing businesses to compete.
"This legislation strikes the balance between protecting Canadian consumers and Canadian businesses by permitting legitimate online commercial messages while including vigorous safeguards," spokesman Michel Cimpaye said in an email.
Most advanced countries in the world have had anti-spam legislation on the books for years and Canada has consistently ranked among the top sources of spam emails.
In 2010, when then-industry minister Tony Clement tabled the legislation, he estimated that spam cost Canadians $3 billion a year in lost productivity and money spent on security systems meant to block out fraudulent or unwanted solicitations over computers and wireless devices.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which would help enforce the law, issued a statement in October encouraging businesses to get ready.
“We are committed to protecting Canadians from the harm caused by spam and other electronic threats,” said Andrea Rosen, the CRTC's chief compliance and enforcement officer.
The CRTC said in the fall statement it expects the legislation to come into force in 2013.
Geist said the legislation will, eventually, lead to less clutter in the email inboxes of Canadians and help curb other unwanted electronic communications.
"There are certainly elements that are tougher than other jurisdictions — we've got big penalties here," he said.
"That's of course why companies started to pay attention to it, because there is real liablity attached if you violate the law."
Related on HuffPost:
Clickjackers on Facebook entice users to copy and paste text into their browser bar by posting too-good-to-be-true offers and eye-catching headlines. Once the user infects his own computer with the malicious code, the clickjackers can take control of his account, spam his friends and further spread their scam. For example, clickjacking schemes hit Facebook soon after bin Laden's death and spread like wildfire by purporting to offer users a glimpse at <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/04/bin-laden-death-video-hoax_n_857730.html" target="_hplink">video or photos of bin Laden's death</a>.
Fake Polls Or Questionnaires
If you click on an ad or a link that takes you to questionnaire on a site outside Facebook, it's best to close the page. When you complete a fake quiz, you help a scammer earn commission. Sometimes the quiz may ask you to enter your mobile number before you can view your results. If the scammers get your number, they could run up charges on your account.
Phishers go after your credentials (username, password and sometimes more), then take over your profile, and may attempt to gain access to your other online accounts. Phishing schemes can be difficult to spot, especially if the scammers have set up a page that resembles Facebook's login portal.
Phony Email Or Message
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=1187" target="_hplink">Facebook warns</a> users to be on the lookout for emails or messages from scammers masquerading as "The Facebook Team" or "Facebook." These messages often suggest "urgent action" and may ask the user to update his account. They frequently contain links to malware sites or virus-ridden attachments. They may even ask for your username and password. The best advice Facebook offers is to report the sender and delete the messages without clicking anything.
Money Transfer Scam
If a friend sent you a desperate-sounding Facebook chat message or wall post asking for an emergency money transfer, you'd want to help, right? Naturally. That's what makes this scam so awful. The point is to get you to wire money to scammers via Western Union or another transfer service.
Fake Friend Request
Not all <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/10/facebook-friend-request-spam_n_821584.html?page=1" target="_hplink">friend requests</a> come from real people, despite Facebook's safeguards against bots. Some Facebook accounts exist purely to establish broad connections for spamming or extracting personal data from users, so watch out whose friend requests you accept.
Fake Page Spam
Malicious pages, groups or event invitations aim to trick the user into performing actions that Facebook considers "abusive." For instance, a fake invite might offer a prize if you forward it to all your friends or post spammy content on their walls. Sometimes a scammer will set up fake pages as a front for a clickjacking or phishing scheme.
Malicious apps are pretty common on Facebook these days. They can be a cover for phishing, malware, clickjacking or money transfer schemes. Oftentimes, the apps look convincingly real enough for users to click "Allow," as they would do with a normal Facebook app. However, rogue apps use this permission to spread spam through your network of friends. For example, the recent "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/08/facebook-closing-accounts-scam-app_n_846737.html" target="_hplink">Facebook Shutdown</a>" scam spread by claiming that Facebook would delete all inactive accounts except those that confirmed via app installation.
The Koobface Worm
The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koobface" target="_hplink">Koobface worm</a> is getting on in years (it first appeared in late 2008) and has been mostly scrubbed from the site, but Facebook still warns users to look out for it. Koobface spreads across social networks like Facebook via posts containing a link that claims to be an Adobe Flash Player update. Really, the link downloads malware that will infect your computer, hijack your Facebook profile and spam all your friends with its malicious download link. This worm affects mostly Windows users.