Canada’s spam law might not make a massive dent in spam – but it’s still great.

The new Canadian anti-spam law may not mean a whole lot less spam for you, but you should still be happy about it.

A new anti-spam law will take effect on July 1 that regulates commercial emails sent to or from Canadians. It’s one of the strongest such laws in the world, with penalties up to $1 million for an individual violator and up to $10 million for companies.

The law will make it illegal to send commercial emails without getting permission first, and this will apply to social network and text messages as well. And with those stiff penalties the law should take a huge dent out of the amount of spam Canadians receive, right?

Well, maybe not. Security and spam experts say only 1.3% of the world’s spam is sent from Canada. So even if the law significantly reduces that, we will still continue to get plenty of spam from people all over the world (primarily China, USA, South Korea and Taiwan).

Nonetheless, it’s easy to get over the disappointment of finding out that we won’t wake up to spam-free mailboxes on July 2 when you take a closer look at the law.

The government had to move now because while the overall amount of spam from Canada is still relatively low, it is growing. In 2013 Canada for the first time made the top 20 list of the world’s worst spamming countries, coming in at #14. So the new law and its stiff penalties should stop and ultimately reverse that trend.

One of the most significant aspects of the law (that is receiving strangely little attention) addresses viruses and malware. Under the new law it will be illegal for anyone in Canada to install computer software on a Canadian computer without the consent of the computer’s owner. This means anyone who installs a virus, bot or any other unauthorized program on a Canadian’s computer has broken the law, regardless of what the program does. And for a country with a relatively small population, Canada is one of the world’s top 10 generators of malicious software, cranking out 3.5% of the worlds malicious bots.

Then there’s the problem of phishing, or sending emails designed to look like they come from businesses, financial institutions or government agencies that try to collect personal information like login information or credit card numbers. The new law also makes that illegal.

There is no question that the new law places significant responsibilities on Canadian companies, and a huge lobbying campaign has gone on at some length about that burden, But while it remains to be seen just how much of a burden these new rules will be, what is clear is that this much-needed legislation will take a strong first swing at some very serious issues.

Memo to parents: Hockey is supposed to be fun

Between the World Junior hockey championships hosted in my home province and coaching two completely hockey-crazy boys – along with a few other things – hockey has been on my mind a lot lately. That’s why a recent column by Joe O’Connor prompted me to write the letter below, that was today published in the National Post.

The original column is a fascinating look at the numbers around amateur hockey in Canada and how the US is catching up to Canada in terms of the number of kids taking the game up and then sticking with it to go on and play at high levels. The writer gives Hockey Canada, and all hockey-loving Canadians, a lot to think about, but I thought there was one part of the discussion he overlooked.

Re: Soon It May No Longer Be Our Game, Joe O’Connor, Dec. 23.

Joe O’Connor laid out some serious issues for Hockey Canada to consider as we look to keep “our” game ours. He’s right when he describes hockey as our national birthright, and the one sport we know better and care more deeply about than any other nation on Earth. What he didn’t address is what that passion means for Canada’s young players.

Unfortunately, passionate parents far too often turn into psychotic parents – and the pressure they put on young players can be crippling. Four-and five-yearold kids are pushed onto the ice and forced to show up every week – whether they want to or not. Young teens are pressured to perform and told effort and attitude are not enough – it is results that matter. Wins on the board and stats on the sheet are the only meaningful markers to many parents.

Canadians are justifiably proud of our hockey accomplishments, but that pride is perilously close to arrogance, and has the potential to end our dominance in the sport. Kids used to spend hours on the ice practising their skills because they wanted to – a simple love of the game and a passion for excellence. Far too many young players are putting in that kind of effort today out of a fear of failure instead.

Unless our hockey parents remember why they loved the game as kids, and remember that it is a game, we will continue to churn out technically sound players who have no heart. And that’s not the Canadian game that we are all so proud of.

Will Usage Based Billing kill Google’s Chrome OS in Canada?

As Google hosts it’s I/O conference this week, I can’t help but watch from Canada and wonder what the future of the Chrome OS will be here.

Google appears to be loading the new operating system with innovative new features and functionality that could make it a very useful tool for many Canadians. But it is a true ‘cloud’ OS, meaning that virtually everything you do on your computer goes through the Internet. So the big question for Canadians is, how will we be able to take advantage of these features when our Internet service providers (ISP) seem intent on limiting the amount of bandwidth we can use (or gouging us on our bills if we use too much)?

For example, Google has already launched a tool to integrate it’s Picasa photo service so your photos are stored in the cloud instead of on your computer. They’ve also released some detailed information showing how printing will work with the new OS, and it will mean that every file will be transferred to the cloud before it is printed.

I can see a lot of interesting possibilities for both of these features, and though I’m not an advanced programmer it is clear to even me that cloud features will eat up an awful lot valuable bandwidth – that will cost Canadians a pretty penny if UBB goes ahead.

So, for Google and especially for Canadian consumers, the big question is what the future of these kind of cloud-based initiatives will be in our country if the ISPs who hold a virtual monopoly on Internet access are allowed to implement UBB. Seems to me like that kind of future would look pretty bleak.

Canadian net neutrality debate misses the point (so far).

The Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) will wade this week into the muddy waters of net neutrality. The familiar voices of industry and privacy/tech advocates have started the predictable debate, but it seems that – in true Canadian fashion – both sides are missing the boat.

Canadian Debate heats up

Canadian Debate heats up

Net neutrality is, at its heart, a debate about whether or not Internet service providers (ISPs) should be able to control its customers’ Internet usage, setting limits on how much of certain activities are allowed, and even prioritize sites or ads that come from sponsors of the ISP.

The debate has raged in the US for a few years now (see the condensed version here) but has only heated up earnest recently in Canada.

The debate has become increasingly shrill on both sides, with ISPs winning the disingenuous rhetoric award thus far. In fact, as Michael Geist accurately points out, industry is even trying to claim throttling is required for their very survival – and doing so after recently claiming that throttling of this nature is not even possible.

What is unclear to me about this debate is why the loudest voice from both sides isn’t simple disclosure.

I use the Internet at home to stream HD movies from Xbox live, to backup several gigabytes worth of data, to play video games – collectively making me easily the biggest consumer of bandwidth on my block. So why shouldn’t I pay more than others using the same service, but using it less?

If my ISP wants to throttle how much of their bandwidth I hog, why shouldn’t they be able to do so?

But if they’re going to charge me more or limit my access, they better damn well tell me before I ever sign a contract or get a bill from them. Full disclosure, in language that even the worst luddite can understand, should be an ironclad requirement of allowing any of these measures.

If my ISP tells me they’re going to cut me off at 5Gb of downloads a month, that’s fine – I’ll find a new one. If they want to charge me more because I am such a hog, that’s great – I’ll look around to see if there is a cheaper option for me.

But the cornerstone of this policy has to be openness. The first time an ISP tries to sneak in a restriction or an extra fee, there must be harsh and immediate consequences.

In a debate that is becoming increasingly heated and polarizing, this seems to me to be a solution that should please both sides.

Turns out someone on the Microsoft ‘Bing’ team really hates Canada.

If early reviews of Microsoft’s new ‘Bing’ search engine are any indication, the service will be like Microsoft itself. Some will love it, most will use it, and some will believe it to be pure evil pouring through network cables all over the world. Canadians, though, may find the new ‘Explore Canada’ feature most interesting. Right under the ‘Explore Canada’ logo, the test version of the new site lets people know that “Canada has so many things to see and do”.

First on the list? You guessed it, that great Canadian attraction, the Oil Sands!

Hmmm. Looks like you can find activists in the most unlikely places.

Hmmm. Turns out you can find activists in the most unlikely places.

I’m not sure of the mechanics behind this feature and how on earth it would have generated the list that is currently there, but I sure hope they get it fixed before the final version goes live. If they are using a ranking system based on number of searches, that would be interesting – but its certainly not indicative of the things to ‘see and do’ in Canada!

So far I share CNET’s initial enthusiasm, but I’m definitely hoping this feature is either better described or better executed in the final version.