Archive: October 1998 — Experts call for privacy law

In 1998, Internet service provider Netcom Canada attempted to broaden its offerings to include a long distance service for small businesses.

Ron Close, Netcom Canada president, said that most of

his small business customers already spend up to $1,000 a month for long distance service. They’re not large enough to negotiate better fees with the carriers, so are often saddled with the same rates offered to residential callers.

Netcom touted cheaper rates for customers as well as simplified billing and processing by bundling online and phone service together.

The trend of bundled service would continue, but it was mostly the larger players in the market — like Bell Canada and Sprint Canada — that benefited from it while smaller ISPs struggled against the competition. Netcom has since been gobbled up AT&T Canada. The latter was renamed Allstream earlier this year following a debt restructuring period.

The term “”Internet privacy”” is mentioned so often these days it’s hard to imagine the first word without following it with the second. Even five years ago, experts were decrying the lack of protection for Internet users. “”There is basically no protection for what private sector companies can do with private information they receive via the Internet,”” said Phillippa Lawson, counsel for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre based in Ottawa, in 1998.

“”We don’t believe that the average consumer knows right now what happens to their information on the Internet,”” added Stephanie Perrin, director of privacy policy with the Electronic Task Force for Industry Canada. Perrin suggested that the government should appoint an ombudsman to judge complaints about personal information being mishandled by a company. She would go on to help draft privacy legislation PIPEDA, which will officially come into effect in January 2004.

On Oct. 19, 2000, George Radwanski was appointed Privacy Commissioner of Canada. He was to have served a seven-year term, and would have seen PIPEDA come into effect, but resigned amidst a storm of controversy in June 2003. His replacement, Robert Marleau (officially the Interim Privacy Commissioner), lists a series of tasks before him on the Commission’s Web site, among them: “”To help organizations understand their obligations, and citizens their rights, under Canada’s new private sector privacy law.””

Following seven straight quarterly losses, Corel CEO Michael Cowpland promised a turnaround by the end of 1998. The latest blow was a quarterly loss of US$7.8 million. It was due to, the company claimed, a US$15.9 million restructuring cost following the closure of its Orem, Utah, facility — the original home of WordPerfect.

But Corel brass weren’t too displeased with the company’s financial performance. Cowpland said that Q3 1998 demonstrated Corel’s “”ongoing progress towards financial renewal.”” He added that “”the results clearly show Corel’s business plan is working.””

The analyst community was less impressed. A Q4 profit would have to be backed up by further financial gains and sustained “”over a period of time and that’s going to take a continued increase in sales,”” said IDC Canada Ltd. analyst John Shoesmith.

Times didn’t prove much easier for Cowpland and company. In 2000, the CEO was still promising to get Corel out of the red — this time at Comdex Canada. A month later, Cowpland stepped down.

In 2003, Corel endured more than a leadership change — the company was sold to California venture capital firm Vector Capital for US$1.05 a share.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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