Social-networking site sued for spamming, ID theft


13 Jul 2009

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Tagged.com, the third largest social-networking site (in terms of membership numbers) after Facebook and MySpace, has been threatened with legal action from New York Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo.

The US social-networking site, founded in 2004, has some 70 million registered members and 70 million monthly visits, according to ComScore, and attorney Cuomo asserts that it has been engaged in misleading interaction with members, leading to mass emails to all of their contacts following seemingly unauthorised access to said contacts lists.

According to the New York Times’ Bits Blog, Cuomo intends to sue Tagged.com “for deceptive email marketing practices and invasion of privacy”.

This process, by which email contacts of Tagged.com members are badgered with emails asking them to sign up to the service in order to see pictures they have supposedly been ‘tagged’ in, has previously been chronicled by several news outlets, including Timemagazine’s Sean Gregory, who dubbed Tagged.com “the world’s most annoying website’.

However, Tagged is defending itself on its official blog, saying that is “has not ‘raided’ email address books, ‘stolen identities’ or ‘spammed’ millions of people”.

It is all a bit of a misunderstanding, according to Tagged.com’s co-founder, Greg Tseng: “We began testing a new registration process, based on our popular Tags photo-sharing feature, in early June.

“Unfortunately, some members complained they had inadvertently elected to send invitations to all the contacts they had uploaded.

“From this feedback we learned that, simply put, it was too easy for people to quickly go through the registration process and unintentionally invite their friends to join them on Tagged.”

Whether or not it was a case of ID theft will be up to the courts to decide, said security expert, Brian Honan.

“What it does point out though is the risks people face in the rush to join a social network. Very often, people surrender a lot of their privacy to social-networking companies in the hope of connecting with friends online.

Honan pointed out a previous task undertaken by him to steal http://www.siliconrepublic.com/news/article/11591/digital-life/identity-theft-knowing-me-knowing-you/ this writer’s identity online, whereby he was able to use information on now-defunct micro-messaging site Pownce to find my date of birth.

“The real problem is that Terms of Service (TOS) are very rarely read by ordinary users and, if they do read them, the TOS are often written in legal language that many find hard to understand or are so vague that the TOS can be interpreted in many different ways,” he added.