Canada’s new anti-spam law

There’s a lot of confusion and panic about CASL, the new Canadadian Anti Spam Law, which went into effect on July 1. Like many of you, I’ve been receiving slightly panicky email from businesses, asking me to consent to receive bulk email from those businesses. In fact, asking to confirm consent is not necessary in most cases.

The rules

If you ever send email with multiple recipients in Canada, then the new law may apply to you. That said, there are numerous exceptions. For instance: personal, family, and other non-commercial email is excluded, as is most inter-business and intra-business email.

If you were already following the rules (PIPEDA), you are almost certainly fine to continue what you were doing before. The basic rules of CASL are the same, namely:

  • To send commercial email, you must have consent from all recipients;
  • email must include contact information for the sender;
  • email must include a method for unsubscribing; and
  • email must not be deceptive in any way.

Consent

Most of the confusion about CASL is related to the issue of consent. Two forms of consent come into play: explicit and implicit. The Canadian Government’s information about consent is helpful in understanding the difference. If you obtain recipient addresses by asking customers if they would like to receive business-related email from you, and only record addresses of those who agree, then you already have explicit consent; there is no need to re-obtain consent.

The deadline

Some of the panic about CASL stems from the apparent deadline of July 1, 2014. In fact, although the law came into effect on that date, you have until July 2017 to comply.

What about Twitter?

Another source of confusion is that the new law seems to cover any Internet-based service that sends messages to multiple recipients, including web forums and Twitter. While technically true, most web-based messaging services make it very easy for a recipient to identify the source of a message and to unsubscribe.

An example of what NOT to do

Microsoft recently informed recipients of its security-related emails that it would stop sending those emails. It turned out that this was an ill-informed overreaction to CASL. CASL does not apply to email containing safety or security information. Even if CASL did apply, it would only have applied to Canadian recipients.

Additional information

About jrivett

Jeff Rivett has worked with and written about computers since the early 1980s. His first computer was an Apple II+, built by his father and heavily customized. Jeff's writing appeared in Computist Magazine in the 1980s, and he created and sold a game utility (Ultimaker 2, reviewed in the December 1983 Washington Apple Pi Journal) to international markets during the same period. Proceeds from writing, software sales, and contract programming gigs paid his way through university, earning him a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) degree at UWO. Jeff went on to work as a programmer, sysadmin, and manager in various industries. There's more on the About page, and on the Jeff Rivett Consulting site.

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