We’ve all had nuisance spam emails or texts from a company we didn’t recognize that made us wonder how they got our information in the first place. But did you know there is a law to protect you?

A business has a responsibility to ensure that all individuals receiving its electronic messages have provided appropriate consent for the collection and use of their address for marketing and other purposes.

Canada’s anti-spam legislation is meant to protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.

The law generally prohibits the sending of commercial electronic messages without the recipient’s consent. It covers messages to email addresses and social networking accounts, as well as text messages sent to a cell phone.

The federal privacy commissioner focuses on two other types of violations. One is the harvesting of electronic addresses, where various techniques are used to automatically compile lists of emails for bulk electronic mail-outs. This can be done by the spammers themselves or other entities who then sell address lists. Another is the collection of personal information through illicit access to other people’s computer systems, primarily through spyware.

Even where businesses buy email lists from vendors or hire outside firms to do e-marketing, they are still responsible for ensuring that appropriate consent was obtained.

Businesses that want to communicate electronically with their customers should document how they collect electronic addresses, the form of consent, and a plan for updating lists when customers unsubscribe.

Find more information online at fightspam.gc.ca.