This is not a blog. So sue me!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Santa's helper - confession time

My conscience is troubling me - I fancy myself a rationalist, but in December I took part in the swindling of a little girl (aged 6). She'll hate me when she grows up I know. What can I do? I was begged by her lovely mother to help out:

Santa Claus
North Pole
H0H 0H0
24 December 2008

A Special Message from Santa

My Dearest Elizabeth,

I have thought long and deeply about the gift you want so much: a poodle. Not just any poodle, but a black poodle. I know that you have tried your best all this year and that you have been a very, very, good girl. Your mommy and daddy say you are a wonderful daughter!

Elizabeth, I am truly sorry, but Santa cannot give pets to anyone! My job is to give toys to good girls and boys - but a dog is not a toy! A dog it is a living, breathing animal that requires a lot of time, money, hard work and constant care and exercise.

Every Christmas there are dogs and cats given to children by their parents. Sometimes the children cannot care for them and the poor puppies and kittens have to go to the Animal Shelter: homeless! It makes them very, very sad!

If the time comes and your parents think that it is right for you and your family to have a pet, then you can talk to them about it. Until then you must be patient.

If you want to keep Santa's magic, please keep this message a secret from everyone except your mommy and daddy. Let me know what you think about it, you can write to me anytime, not just at Christmas.

I will be sure to bring you a special gift instead!

Give your little brother a hug from me!

With much love,


Sunday, February 15, 2009

National Do Not Call Disaster

For quite a while this thing has been bubbling under- the fact that the CRTC has sold the National Do Not Call list to a bunch of unscrupulous, possibly criminal elements.

On or around Oct 1, 2008, in my usual got-to-be-first geeky way, I added a couple of cell-phone numbers (Don's and mine) to this list, as soon as it opened for business. The transaction was completely on-line...add number, then another number. I also added another friend's home phone number. The security was so lax I could add any number I wanted. In retrospect I should have added the numbers of the CRTC privacy point person but we can't all be prescient.

Everything was fine for a couple of months. Then this story came from the CBC. People were receiving more calls on their phones than before. The CRTC said that it was "under investigation."

Then in January 2009, this report from Yahoo news Canada - the CRTC basically admitting that they had sold the list, the do-not call list, repeatedly, for $50 to telemarketers. It could then be downloaded.

Now as we all know, telemarketers are honest, decent types, who really don't want to bother you at suppertime.* Clearly they didn't really have a use for this list (of people they shouldn't call, right?) so perhaps through the magic of the internet, the list was, possibly a little bit sort of, passed on and downloaded by a person in the United States. Nothing technically illegal is done.

One doesn't need to be Inspector Maigret to work out what happens next, and what happens next is entirely legal in the strict sense of the word. Don and I started getting automated calls from machines in the United States. Every day. We have never, ever got nuisance calls before. We only use these phone to call one another (very rarely handing out the numbers to anyone). These calls now warned us of dire happenings because our car warranty is running out or some such guff. That this phone spam is automated is even more annoying (as we cannot ask to be taken off the calling list and they cannot pretend to do so).

Some research shows that these calls come from the most shady side of the outbound telemarketing world, probably run by organized crime. So Canadians who previously had anonymous cell-phone numbers are now being targeted by this traffic. Uurgh.

(I suppose it's only fair. For many years, boiler rooms run out of Canada were targeting U.S. citizens for stock purchasing scams. It took a lot of cross-jurisdictional wrangling to get that stopped effectively.)

So I got fed up and wrote to my Member of Parliament:

To Mr Guy Lauzon, House of Commons,

A question of privacy

Dear Mr Lauzon,

Late last year when the National Do No Call List was started, I registered some cell phone numbers, although I had practically never had any unwanted calls on these numbers. Perhaps one in 6 months.

This was clearly a huge mistake! And I am very upset about this.

We have since started receiving daily calls to our cell phones from numbers with area codes in the United States. These are automated calls, mostly from numbers that are reported to be part of some kind of phone scam e.g. involving expired car warranties (949 256 9179).

I feel that the CRTC, the organization that set up this registration scheme, has been dreadfully mismanaged.
Somehow they have allowed my cell-phone numbers to be given to unscrupulous persons (probably organized criminals).

In addition, when I actually put my numbers on the system using a computer, there was no security
- I put several numbers on, and one for a friend. (I think that this mistake has since been remedied,
but it clearly exposes how poor the implementation of this scheme was).

When I answer these calls, I get to pay for the connection. If I don't answer calls, then I may miss
something very important. I feel that my only recourse is to get another cell-phone number for my phone,
which will leave me paying additional costs and be a serious inconvenience.

If this had been a commercial company and not a federal government agency, I would probably try to
get the transfer fee back from them or some compensation, but I probably don't have that option.

I find this very frustrating and a serious betrayal of my privacy to be exposed like this.

What can be done about this?


Susan Welsh.
(email addresses for the CRTC and Do Not Call list privacy staff)


Perhaps something will come of this. Perhaps pigs will fly.

* IMO telemarketers are pond-slime, second only to email spammers in their evil ways and deserve to be eliminated (see previous spam-related entries). That's right...I'm a pacifist - but we're only talking about eliminating pond-slime so no harm done.


St Lawrence Rowing

Test content from SLRC