This practice isn't new, and is actually the subject of litigation in California, where a group of recipients of messages from Reunion.com are attempting to bring a spam lawsuit against the company. But the marketing strategy is getting some new attention these days -- possibly because a writer for The New York Timescomplained about it last month.
This week, New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he was gearing up to sue Tagged over the practice. In a July 8 letter to Tagged's law firm, the attorney general's Internet bureau chief, Justin Brookman, alleges that sending these types of emails constitutes false advertising, invasion of privacy and a deceptive business practice.
"Tagged, with the direct approval of its CEO, sent out tens of millions of misleading emails to individuals on its members' contact lists," Bookman alleges. "Tagged did not clearly and conspicuously disclose to these members that these email invitations would be sent on their behalf, and Tagged has since admitted that many of its members did not actually intend to send the invitations."
Tagged CEO Greg Tseng denies any wrongdoing. "In no instance did Tagged access a person's personal address book without their consent and no emails were sent without the person giving us permission," Tseng blogs -- though, in the same post, he acknowledges that some people were confused and says the company recently revised its practice.
Still, the fact remains that many people feel victimized by this type of marketing -- and Tagged is hardly the only offender. Many people sign up for these sites without reading the fine print and are then stunned when their names are being used to entice everyone in their email contact lists -- from casual work acquaintances to grandparents to former spouses -- to also join the sites.
Whether this type of campaign is actually unlawful or not, it should have been obvious to Tagged -- and all the other sites using similar marketing strategies -- that consumers wouldn't be happy to see their information used this way