Insert Bad "Tagged, You're It" Pun Here
Tagged.com claims it is the third-largest social network in the U.S., in terms of total monthly visits. And now, perhaps, we know why: Tagged lured new members to its site by tricking users into providing it with access to their personal email contacts. The company then spammed those contacts with promotional emails disguised as invitations to view personal photos. And when they registered with Tagged to view those photos, the company spammed their contacts as well.
An interesting variation on the “membership drive” and one that’s gotten Tagged in hot water with New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who intends to sue the company “for deceptive e-mail marketing practices and invasion of privacy.”
“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. We would never accept this behavior in the real world, and we cannot accept it online.”
Tagged, for its part, claims this is all just a big misunderstanding. In a statement of its own, the company denied abusing its users’ personal address books, saying, essentially, it had their consent to do so.
“When our company tested a new registration process, we discovered that our ‘invite your friends’ language was confusing,” said Tagged CEO Greg Tseng. “…In no instance did Tagged access a person’s personal address book without their consent and no emails were sent without the person giving us permission. We realize that some were confused and accidentally agreed to invite their friends.”
Oh, and next time you register for a social network, be sure to read its Terms of Service–especially the portions that are presented in ALL CAPS. They might be important. From Tagged’s Terms of Service:
“E) Notice Regarding Commercial Email
MEMBERS CONSENT TO RECEIVE COMMERCIAL E-MAIL MESSAGES FROM TAGGED, AND ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT THEIR EMAIL ADDRESSES AND OTHER PERSONAL INFORMATION MAY BE USED BY TAGGED FOR THE PURPOSE OF INITIATING COMMERCIAL E-MAIL MESSAGES.”