Social networking site to change contact policy following N.Y. settlement

By Nick Rees | Nov 9, 2009


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - The social networking site Tagged.com has been stopped by New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo's office from misappropriating the contacts list and identities of its members and from sending out millions of deceptive and unsolicited promotional emails.

Tagged.com, in an agreement with Cuomo's office, will pay $500,000 in penalties and costs to the State as well as adopt industry-leading measures regarding the access and use of its members' personal information.

"Unsuspecting users had no idea that Tagged had hijacked the email addresses of their colleagues, families and friends for the purpose of blasting them with spam," Cuomo said. "This agreement holds the company accountable for its invasion of privacy and puts the proper safeguards in place to keep it from happening again."

Cuomo announced his intent to sue Tagged.com in June for the alleged acts after his office was notified that Tagged.com sent over 60 million misleading emails constructed to appear as if they had been sent directly from a members' personal e-mail account to unsuspecting recipients. If a member of Tagged.com included a personal image on the website, that image was included in the fraudulent email solicitation.

The e-mails stated that Tagged.com members had posted private photos online for their friends to view when, in reality, no such photos existed and the emails were not sent from their friends. Recipients of the e-mails who attempted to access the photos were told that they must signed up for Tagged.com to view the photos. The company would then deceptively gain access to the new members' personal email contacts to send out additional fraudulent invitations.

Many consumers were not aware that Tagged.com had accessed their e-mail contact lists or used their photos until they were told by family, friends and business contacts that the invitations had been sent out in the consumers' names.

As a result of the settlement with Cuomo, Tagged.com must adopt a series of stringent reforms designed to set an industry standard for how social networking sites send out invitation e-mails. Tagged.com is now required to provide clear and conspicuous disclosures when asking for access to a new user's email contacts.

Additionally, Tagged.com will no longer access members' contacts or send messages on behalf of a Tagged.com member without the member's informed permission. Before sending out e-mail invitations, the company must also now verify the emails with new members to ensure that they do not inadvertently invite everyone on the member's contact list.

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