Much Ado About Nothing
I thought I’d adopt a theme of nothing this week. Why not? The federal government seems to have decided it needs to do research into nothing (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpfb-dgpsa/tpd-dpt/npi_notice_e.html). Or to be more specific, Health Canada is funding research into placebos. If you don’t already know, a placebo is “an inactive substance (or therapeutic procedure with no intrinsic therapeutic value) that is used in clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of investigational treatments. (http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/6877.htm)”
What is happening is that it seems that our government is a little confused when it comes to the use of placebos in medical trials. To deal with this they’ve had the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Health Canada look into the matter. The problem is that one set of legislation does not allow placebos to be given to patients in a clinical trial if there’s a known treatment that would aid the patient, and another set of legislation does. Basically it boils down to someone not doing their homework when they came up with the rules and now we’re having to sponsor a report to explain what the rules should be.
For me, the answer seems fairly obvious. If there’s already a known treatment present, rather than simply measuring against a placebo, we should probably measure the new treatments against the old one. After all, what matters isn’t whether a given treatment simply works better than nothing, but if it’s better than what we already know. But then again, I’m no doctor.
Canadian Marketing Association to Protect Privacy
No, really. At least, that’s what Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada thinks will happen. She’s so sure of it that she’s willing to send $50,000 (http://www.privcom.gc.ca/media/nr-c/2005/nr-c_050127_02_e.asp) of tax-payer money to the Canadian Marketing Association so that they will develop “privacy best practices to assist businesses in better handling customer personal information under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).”
Isn’t this a lot like paying the fox to guard the henhouse? Maybe I am being pessimistic, but when the organization is one that thrives on not only the collection but also the selling of personal information between companies, trusting them to come up with a set of best practices that benefits the rest us seems like wishful thinking at best. I’m worried that getting nothing at all out of this might be the best possible outcome.
Canada Post Now Lets you fetch(â?¢)
In a similar vein, Canada Post has established a new marketing system (http://www.canadapost.ca/personal/corporate/about/newsroom/pr/default-e.asp?prid=1039) called fetch(â?¢) that will supposedly help protect your privacy by establishing better contact between you and the advertisers. The system itself is simple. Various advertisements will now have a logo or distinctive sound telling you that the ad is fetch(â?¢) enabled. You then call in to a special line and they provide you with more information or a contact to the service.
So how does this protect privacy? All of your information is supposedly stored securely by a third party so the advertiser never knows who is asking for the information unless you tell them. Given the rather widespread failure of the “click-through” model of banner advertising on the web, I have to question the wisdom of the marketing genius that thought up this new scheme. However, whoever it was is a savvy enough salesman to get Domino’s Pizza, Telus, Safeway, a number of Royal Le Page real-estate offices, plus some other companies to sign up for the service already.
But maybe it’ll work. I admit, there is probably some appeal to being able to get information out of a realtor’s office without having to worry about the realtor calling you every month for the next year. For most of the companies listed however, I really don’t think it applies. Or is there some huge telemarketing wing of Domino’s Pizza that I’ve simply been lucky enough to avoid so far? Basically, I think this is another system that will wind up amounting to nothing.
Now that I think about it though, telemarketing for food might actually work. I know if somebody called me up out of the blue and said “Hey. Want a hot, gooey pizza with thin crust at your door in the next 20 minutes?” I’d be tempted to say yes. Maybe Canada Post should have come up with some system to help companies do that instead.
Ontario Pressuring Ottawa for Post-Secondary
Aside from the “nothing” theme this week, there is one item of interest that I spotted. This item is that a Provincial government is finally putting a call forward (http://ogov.newswire.ca/ontario/GPOE/2005/01/31/c8895.html?lmatch=&lang=_e.html) to Ottawa for more money for post-secondary education. Usually these complaints relate to health-care or infrastructure development, but with 61 billion dollars in projected federal surpluses over the next five years, there certainly could be some money in there for other things. If some other provinces would join in with this call for more post-secondary funding, who knows, we may be able to look forward to the day when the tuition increase is zero. I can dream, anyway.