Tagged.com sued over email marketing practices

Social networking site Tagged.com is being sued by the State of New York for “deceptive e-mail marketing practices and invasion of privacy.”

According to New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Tagged illegally tries to lure new members by tricking visitors into providing their personal address books, which the company then uses to send out more invitations. For those who have never received an email from Tagged.com, when they appear in your inbox they appear as though a friend has sent them a link to photos posted on the site.

“This company stole the address books and identities of millions of people,” Mr. Cuomo told the New York Times. “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.com’s chief executive Greg Tseng said in a statement on the company’s blog that other social networking sites use similar methods and implied that the option to send the emails was precisely that, an option, however they have discovered that the “invite your friends” language was confusing so ceased sending out the emails some time ago.

Tagged.com has taken $13.5 million in three rounds from 2005 to 2008. Investors include Reid Hoffman, the Mayfield Fund, Horizon Technology Finance Management and Leader Ventures. They company claims it’s the third largest social networking site after Facebook and MySpace based on membership numbers.