The San Francisco-based social networking site Tagged.com has agreed to pay a $650,000 settlement and halt deceptive practices in which millions of people unknowingly gave the site access to their entire e-mail contact list, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said today.
District Attorney Kamala Harris said at a news conference that her office began an investigation in response to complaints to Tagged’s spring 2009 e-mail campaign in which it reportedly sent out between 40 and 60 million e-mails to potential new members.
“They called in and they were frustrated, and they were upset, and they felt that they were being deceived,” Harris said.
The e-mails falsely claimed that a Tagged.com member had sent the recipient a photo or private message, but in order to access it, the recipient had to complete a registration form that “misled many” into giving the site access to their e-mail contacts, according to prosecutors.
The contacts were then used to repeat the process and build Tagged’s membership, prosecutors said.
“This was purely deceptive on its face,” said Harris.
The company, begun in 2004, boasts a membership of more than 80 million people and claims to be the third largest social network in the country.
In addition to paying $650,000 in civil penalties and investigative costs, Tagged.com was ordered to implement a system of safeguards, including clear disclosures and consumer consent before accessing a user’s e-mail contact list, Harris said.