60 million stung in social networking rip-off

New York's attorney general says that Tagged.com stole the identities of more than 60 million internet users worldwide - by sending emails that raided their private accounts.

Andrew Cuomo said he plans to sue the social networking website for deceptive marketing 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 apologise to all their email contacts for Tagged's unethical - and illegal - behaviour."

Started in 2004 by Harvard math students Greg Tseng and Johann Schleier-Smith, Tagged calls itself a "premier social-networking destination." The California-based company claims to be the third-largest social networking site after Facebook and MySpace, with 80 million registered users.

Cuomo said Tagged acquired most of them fraudulently, sending unsuspecting recipients emails that urged them to view private photos posted by friends.

The message read: "(name of friend) sent you photos on Tagged."

When recipients tried to access the photos, Cuomo said they would in effect become new members of the site - without ever seeing any photos.

Recipients' email address books would then be lifted, the attorney general said.

Tagged temporarily suspended its online campaign last month, in response to user complaints.

Email and telephone messages to the company were not immediately returned.

"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," Cuomo said.

The system was set up so that a user was asked whether the sender of the photos was a friend, then suggesting that if the recipient didn't respond, the friend "may think you said no" (accompanied by a sad face icon).

Any click resulted in the same thing, Cuomo said: Every person on a user's contact list received an email that again read, "(name of user) sent you photos on Tagged." The site then released a flood of offers for everything from sweepstakes to other services.

By the time a recipient realised there were no photos, it was too late.

Yesterday, a box on the site's home page still read: "NOW HIRING ... click here."

The attorney general said a lawsuit would seek to stop Tagged from engaging in "fraudulent practices" and to seek fines.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in