The numbers are in, and it seems the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) has had a significant impact on Canadian email volumes since it went into effect on July 1 – although maybe not in the way you’d expect.

According to the Security Threat Report for Q1 of 2015 from Cloudmark, a San Francisco-based email security company, CASL’s impact has been significant. Spam originating in Canada, the majority of which is destined for the United States, has dropped by 37 per cent since CASL. All email received by Canadians, including both spam and legitimate messages, was down by 29 per cent, but there was no significant change in the amount of spam email received by Canadians.

The data is based on spam detected by Cloudmark Authority.

Spam Originating in Canada (Cloudmark chart)
Spam Originating in Canada (Cloudmark chart)

The unusual findings may be due to the cross-border nature of the spam industry in North America. According to Cloudmark, most spam email originating in Canada (78 per cent) is bound for the U.S., and most of the spam Canadians received (53 per cent) comes from the U.S.

Since CASL, spam outbound from Canada has dropped dramatically. However, while email received in Canada overall has dropped by 29 per cent, much of that was due to a sharp decline in legitimate email. The average percentage of email received by Canadians that is spam actually increased from 16.5 to 16.6 per cent.

Email Received in Canada (Cloudmark chart)
Email Received in Canada (Cloudmark chart)

According to Cloudmark, the stricter requirements for consent for marketing emails under CASL are behind the drop in legitimate email volume.

“Practices for adding a consumer email address to a mailing list that would be acceptable under the US CAN-SPAM legislation do not satisfy the level of affirmative consent required by CASL,” said Cloudmark. “While CASL has been ineffective in preventing the professional spammers promoting bootleg pharmaceuticals, diet pills and adult services, it has stopped unscrupulous email marketers from growing their mailing lists by co-marketing or easy-to-miss opt-out checkboxes.”

The data was noted with interest by Ken Simpson, CEO of Vancouver-based anti-spam company MailChannels, who noted that by levying significant fines with its first two cases, CASL has gotten the attention of the industry.

“While off-shore spammers don’t seem deterred by CASL, because they are beyond the reach of Canadian law enforcement, anyone acting in a grey area is taking steps to avoid CASL, and this is definitely reducing the volume of ‘grey area’ email marketing in Canada,” said Simpson. “We don’t expect CASL to significantly reduce pill popping, porn, and other hard-core forms of spam that originate from senders domiciled off-shore, but CASL will have a global effect on ‘grey area’ spam.”

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