A social networking site based in San Francisco has been notified that it will be sued by New York state for deceptive email marketing practices and invasion of privacy.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said that the company, Tagged.com, set up an illegal plan to lure new members and artificially inflate traffic statistics on its site.
“Consumers who visited Tagged were tricked into providing the company with access to their personal email contacts, which the company then used to send millions of promotional emails,” a statement from Cuomo's office said Thursday. “Tagged disguised these solicitations to make them appear as if they were coming from a personal contact, when they were actually spam.”
Tagged was quick to respond. In a post on its blog, co-founder Greg Tseng wrote: “We are dismayed that Cuomo's office, which has shown itself to be fairly well-versed in the internet, would issue an inaccurate and inflammatory accusation. We can only believe that they have not carefully reviewed the facts.”
The lawsuit was triggered by a practice Tagged instituted in its registration process earlier this year, according to the statement.
“Tagged made their invitational emails appear to have been sent directly from members' personal email accounts, instead of from Tagged.com,” the statement read. “The emails falsely stated that ‘[name] sent you photos on Tagged.'" If the Tagged member had had already put an image to the website, Tagged also included that picture.
When a person clicked on a link to see the photos, they were automatically enrolled as new members and their email address books were gleaned for new addresses to sent invitations, according to the statement.
“This company stole the address books and identities of millions of people,” Cuomo said in the statement. “Consumers had their privacy invaded and were forced into the embarrassing position of having to apologize to all their email contacts for Tagged's unethical – and illegal – behavior.”
Tagged suspended its campaign in June, before the attorney general notified Tagged that it was conducting an inquiry of its business.
“Once again, we sincerely apologize for any embarrassment or frustration people experienced,” Tseng wrote. “We are very confident that once the attorney general considers all of the facts, we will be able to resolve this matter amicably.”