New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo threw a legal right hook at social networking site Tagged.com July 9, charging the site with spamming and stealing the identities of 60 million of its users.
Cuomo served the site with a notice of intent, marking his plan to sue Tagged.com for allegedly raiding users' contact lists and blasting out e-mails in an attempt to boost traffic.
"This company stole the address books and identities of millions of people," Cuomo said in a statement. "Consumers had their privacy invaded and were forced into the embarrassing position of having to apologize to all their e-mail contacts for Tagged's unethical-and illegal-behavior. This very virulent form of spam is the online equivalent of breaking into a home, stealing address books and sending phony mail to all of an individual's personal contacts."
Founded in 2004, Tagged.com has emerged as a popular social networking site, with more than 80 million registered users. According to Cuomo, in attempt to boost members, Tagged sent out invitational e-mails that appeared to have come from their members' personal e-mail accounts instead of from Tagged. Many users were unaware their e-mail lists were being raided, the attorney general contended.
According to the statement, "Between April and June [of] this year, Tagged sent tens of millions of misleading e-mails to unsuspecting recipients stating that Tagged members had posted private photos online for their friends to view. In reality, no such photos existed and the e-mail was not from their friends." If a member had actually posted a photo to the site, Tagged would include it in the e-mail as part of the lure, according to the statement.
In response to the allegations, Tagged CEO Greg Tseng defended his company's actions in a blog post and stated that Tagged never accessed users' personal address books without their consent and no e-mails were sent without permission.
"Identity theft and invasion of privacy are very serious allegations and it is not accurate to portray Tagged, or any other social network, in this regard," Tseng said in the blog post.
He explained that as the company "tested a new registration process, we discovered that our 'invite your friends' language was confusing" to users.
"The registration drive generated some complaints and as a business that succeeds or fails based on word of mouth, we took every complaint very seriously," he said. "We immediately stopped using this registration process, before being contacted by the attorney general's office."
However, according to Cuomo, by the time the company suspended its e-mail marketing campaign in June it had already sent out more than 60 million messages to consumers worldwide.
"We realize that some were confused and accidentally agreed to invite their friends," Tseng said. "We are truly sorry for any inconvenience or frustration that these people experienced."