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Tagged.com: Spam Your Friends

Fined Founder Still At It

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[ Technology]

If apologizing to friends, family, classmates, colleagues, acquaintances, and anybody who’s ever graced your email inbox is your thing, then signing up with "social networking" site Tagged.com is the way to go. Or, you could tell the FTC the site’s founder is still up to his old tricks.

This morning I received an email from someone on staff at the graduate school I attend, inviting me to join Tagged. Emails from this person are generally official program ones. For example, she would likely inform me of changes made on BlackBoard, where the user interface is about as intuitive as Braille at a drive-through ATM. It’s not unlikely, then, after enough complaints, that the program would decide on a different online community.

I hope that’s enough justification for my own stupidity as I ignored the trail of red flags leading me through Tagged’s signup process. I trusted the person sending me the mail enough to give it the benefit of the doubt and some information, and instead of my usual procrastination and skepticism about things like this, I proceeded hastily enough to miss the subsequent email of apology from the same source.

I wasn’t completely duped, though. Even if I did provide my Gmail password (this isn’t too uncommon when merging accounts, signing up for social media services, etc.), I didn’t allow Tagged to email my entire contact list it had imported. My entire contact list, just like everybody’s, is vast and includes not just friends, family, coworkers, and classmates, but also professional acquaintances, and even some people I generally despise (and the feeling’s mutual, I must contend). Instead of having to unselect hundreds of people one by one, Tagged, to its credit, allowed me to unselect the whole batch.

At least I hope that worked, because it’s not so clear if Tagged can be trusted. Still thinking this was for school purposes, I continued on through the sign-up process where I discovered, to my extreme discomfort, there were required information fields demanding personal information like my home address and my phone number. I wasn’t born yesterday, so I cursed my graduate school a little and told Tagged I lived at 1234 Nunyabizness Lane and gave them the number for the local Wal-Mart, if they would like to reach me. (Wouldn’t it be creepy if I were paged next time I went in there?)

Tagged knew that wasn’t a real street, so I changed it to the address of Ashland, the estate of "The Great Compromiser," Henry Clay, where they could speak with the Congressman’s ghost, if they liked.

But then things got more personal. I didn’t count the pages, but they were numerous, that I had to keep clicking "pass" after viewing. Each page was offering some different promotion or survey, and each page asked for some deeply personal information: cell phone number this time, required, and my mother’s maiden name. Eventually, one can exit the spam labyrinth, but you have to be pretty resolved to believe that this isn’t the same page over and over, and that you won’t exit the loop until you sign up for something. I’m stubborn, so that’s to my credit. Finally, voila, I’m at my Tagged profile page where I can do all the same things I can do at any number of other social networking sites on the Internet. (Yawn.)

But what a weird choice of social networks my grad school had made!

I checked my email, and there was the apology. She hadn’t meant to send an invitation to everybody she’d ever met via email. Doh! I promptly canceled my Tagged account and when they had the nerve to say they were "bummed" and asked me why, I gave them a (very vulgar) piece of my mind.

My email password has also been changed.

It’s surprising Tagged didn’t ring a bell–this is my beat, after all–and a little research showed that I probably had seen the name before among lists of social networking also-rans that weren’t MySpace, Facebook, or Bebo. But Tagged claims to have 70 million members. Why hadn’t I heard more?
Get Him to the Greek (2010)
Fair Game (2010)
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)
The Ghost Writer (2010)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
The Last Airbender (2010)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I (2010)
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
Robin Hood (2010)
Toy Story 3 (2010)
The A-Team (2010)
The Spy Next Door (2010)

It’s not so hard to find other complaints online via numerous blog posts on the web, and Wikipedia’s entry is far from flattering, labeling Tagged.com a phishing scheme. Security firm Symantec has a forum post about them dating back to 2007, and doubts they are phishing for financial information, just personal information they can sell to third parties so Tagged’s valued members and everybody they know can be spammed and telemarketed to oblivion.

I went back to the site to see who was behind it. Usually, these companies have a shady history and I expected to see a company similar to Zango (fined by the feds) or Intermix, the checkered-past (and fed-fined) company behind MySpace. The pedigrees of the site founders and the venture capitalists funding it were actually very impressive and, dare I say, reputable. They hailed from Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Oxford. The board of directors were associated with other big-name Internet and tech ventures like LinkedIn, PayPal, Apple and Fujitsu. They were backed by Allen Morgan at Mayfield, who’s backed Jobster, JotSpot, Snap, and Tribe.net.

With these resumes and portfolios, was I (and everybody else steamed about Tagged.com) just overreacting and assuming the worst? The mailing address was still worrisome: a PO box in San Francisco. Founder Greg Tseng’s bio on the management page seemed as benign as it was impressive. He also founded Avivon, which is difficult to find much info about, and a discount textbook seller at Harvard called flyingchickens.com. A PhD physicist, his list of accomplishments at Harvard and Standford is commendable—and hey!, a publication credit at Science.

You would have to find a brief speaker bio at the Authentication and Online Trust Alliance website to see mention of another company he founded, called Jumpstart Technologies. Interesting it wasn’t mentioned on Tagged.com’s management page. That might be because Jumpstart was fined nearly a million dollars in 2006 by the Federal Trade Commission for violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

From the FTC’s March 2006 press release about Jumpstart:

“These defendants intentionally used personal messages as a cover-up for commercial messages," said Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Deceptive subject lines and headers not only violate the CAN-SPAM Act, but also consumer trust.”

The FTC’s complaint alleges that Jumpstart offered free movie tickets to consumers in exchange for the names and e-mail addresses of five or more of their friends. Jumpstart then sent them commercial e-mails with the consumer’s e-mail address in the “from” line and a seemingly personal “subject line,” such as, “Hey,” “Happy Valentine’s Day,” “Happy New Year,” “Movie time. Let’s go.,” or “Invite.” Jumpstart also made it look as if the consumer had written the message text. In this way, Jumpstart’s commercial e-mails circumvented certain spam filters and were opened by consumers who thought they contained personal correspondence.

Well, we can see that the regulatory slap on the wrist really meant something to Tseng and persuaded him to change his business model.

In the comments of one blog post complaining about Tagged, someone suggests readers contact the site’s investors to complain. Likely, that won’t do much—spam is lucrative. We suggest consumers concerned about privacy and spam fill out this FTC complaint form instead.   
 

 

Tagged.com: Spam Your Friends
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  • http://extremeezine.com/ Brian D. Hawkins

    I just cancelled my tagged membership a few days ago. I never really used it and I would receive daily emails of some hot model looking girl wanting to be friends.  I’ve been married for 25 years and I’m interested in business networking so I stated that on my profile. It seems to be the same with many of the social networking sites, just infested with people trying to lure you onto their dating sites.

  • http://website-related.com Website-Related

    lol, this post reminnds me of an incident last year where I recieved some tagged email thingy from someone I used to be good friends of, but fell out with (in one of those non fixable ways!)

    Naturaly, I was way to dubious about the whole thing to even click a link in the email !!

    Hopefully someone will uncover this blantant harvester of personal info !! Then maybe i can have a chance of grabbing that domain!!!

  • http://movingtosiliconvalley.wordpress.com/ Tricia Lawrence

    I have been tagged by a couple of friends, the second one I decided to join for a chat, but was extremely sceptical with all the various companies wanting to get a piece of me when I added my profile.  Since I joined I’ve been asked to be a friend of two older guys who I’ve never met before – is this some kind of dating service?  Where do they get my email?  I’m cancelling right now and will suggest to my friend she does the same…

  • Guest

    Whenever I create a new online relationship, I create a new email address for them to contact me.  I have Gmail consolidate it all into one account.  That way if it was all a ruse or things go south I can throw the one account away.  One account generated no spam.  Zero.  Nada.  Then one day my friend tagged me.  I ignored the tag request and deleted the invite.  Guess what happened?  I started receiving spam via that account.  It started as one message a day.  Then two, then three…

  • Guest

    I MEANT TO TYPE: HTTP://WWW.GREGTSENG.COM

  • happy

    wow…this is very petty and negative…this site is no different from myspace and i bet everyone who commented has a myspace page…

    if your gonna say something bad about a site…make it worth ready…cuz all those comments are trash

    I have never enjoyed a profile or the folks that I have met on any other site as i have with Tagged.  There site is user friendly and a great way to meet people and connect with friends!

    I recomment the site to everyone who has taste and enjoys a good wholesome friends…i have myspace, yahoo 360, multipy…nothing has compared to my GOOD experience with Tagged

    Now…how you doin!!!!!

     

  • Guest

    I’m just glad that I hate ‘social’ networking sites in general, so didn’t sign up for tagged when a friend of mine had the same problem–signed up because a trusted friend signed up and had their email address book rummaged through.  So it didn’t matter that his follow-up was the next day for me.

  • Anita

    Hi…link me to join tagged.com please…  thank u…

    • George king

      Dear   Friend ,
       
      We are looking for investment opportunities in any part of the world where we can put in about €18.5Million.
       
      Please if you are interested contact us immediately by email and we shall discuss the modalities of the investment and how to move the funds to you after agreement made between the parties involved.
      Please send along the following information
       
      1.Your Full Name
      2.Your Private Telephone Number Or Fax Number.
      3.Your Full Contact Address
      4.Your company Name And Address
      5.Copy Of Your International Passport
      6.Your Proffession
      7.Name Of Your Country.
       
      Thanks,
      George King

      • Guest umbelina soares

        Dear friend

        I,m From East Timor Police service

        we just got refrendom in 2004

        we need as investor to invest our country

        if you like to inves in this country u can trai to see me ba

        Email umbelina_soares@yahoo.com
        address East Timor- Dili timor leste PNTL HQ
        No.Contact 006707439180

    • Mahony D

      Tagged is the best place to keep intouch with friends..

      • Mahony D

        need to register at tagged.com..please help..

        • p

          hi

          • MAno

            hey! whoze dere?

  • Guest
    My son in law from NC ‘tagged’ me.  I  ALMOST filled out the app. but I am getting smarter in my old age so I ‘googled’ TAGGED.
    I will not be joining this one either, currently I belong to ZERO SITES of this nature.
    Thanks for the heads up!
                 LinDe
  • Guest

    does this work?

    rbafrica@comcast.net

  • Guest

    hbates@towson.edu

  • Charles

    I really appreciate this post. I was going through the sign up process because a beautiful woman I wanted to meet recommended it from yahoo personals. I didn’t want to spend the money on yahoo to become a full member of yet another dating site so I thought I’d see if tagged.com was free.

    Like you I became really uneasy with all the personal questions and clicked skip or pass as I went through. When it asked for my cell number I started doing some research because my inner voice was telling me that this was not a good idea and that I really needed to get some breakfast soon. (Not now inner voice, maybe later)

    I decided the lovely lady would have to wait because I wasn’t about to give my info and my friends info to any website.

  • Guest

    If I lived near his office , I’d go round and modify his nose !

  • JustSayin

    Tagged.com is EXTREMELY popular in the Caribbean. I imagine a major portion of their members are from countries other than the US. I think I have been “tagged” by every Caribbean contact I have.

    Never joined tho.

  • Guest

    well i came out of tagged a few weeks ago.i wont to go back to tagged and when i sign in with my details it comes up that it in uses and i’ve allways used the same e-mail address for ather thing aswell

  • http://www.ehow.com/how_4782069_not-spam-friends-ehow.html Guest

    ali10oop@yahoo.com; “Belinda Baldwin” ; bluetundra@hotmail.com; carnifex35@yahoo.com; “Chris” ; cotopaxikid@aol.com; “Anna Cruz” ; thome@gvtc.com; “jeremy krause” ; “Taco John” ; khaosonearth@hotmail.com; klaahd1@charter.net. Is this the no spam list.

  • lawreesha

    I HAD 1 THE FIRST TIME AND GOT KICKED OFF THERS PEOPLE OUT WITH THIRE PRIVATE PARTS OUT AND STUFF SO THE 2ED TIME I SIGN UP WITH A DIFFFRENT EMAIL SAME PICTURES AND GOT A MEMBERSHIP LOOK AT ME IM RIGHT HERE WRIGHTING YALL I LOVE THE SITE WHO DONT BUT THEY EMAILED ME AND SAID THAT I WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE A PIECE OF MY BODY PART UP THERE HOW DO I KNOW WHO IS SPAM OR NOT. WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY IS THEY LOOK LIKE REGULARE PICTURE THERE BE DRUGS ON THE SITE AND I CANT SHOW NO CLEAVEAG WOW DATZ CRAZY THEN I CANT CONTACT THEM THROUGH A PHONE I AM MAD AS HELL I HAVE TO WRIGHT THEM SO THAT MONEY IS GOING DOWN THE DRAIN AND I M A GOOD PERSON AND I GET KICKED OFF YOU SHOULD SEE THE PEOPLE ON THERE THATS DOING DATZ STUFF IM FEELING SOME TYPE OF WAY AND I WANT MY PAGE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!THANKS FOR WHO EVER UNDERSTANDS ME

  • Guest

    …from Thomas Jefferson. The guy behaved unethically even in high school lab. Out of curiosity I kept an eye on what he was doing at Harvard…he continued there, creating a dating site that would spam people saying somebody had a crush on them, and have them guess who had the crush (of course nobody did). That way the site would harvest more e-mail addresses to spam “somebody has a crush on you!” Greg now is what he always was, an aggressive guy without ethics. The only difference is that I suppose he’s gotten rich off it.

  • Guest

    SHit the site spam to MAILBOX FUCK

  • Guest

    I love spam! Wolfboy31891@yahoo.com

  • Guest

    I love spam!
    dragonflame_3@yahoo.com

  • Guest

    GIVE ME ALL THE SPAM YOU HAVE!!!!
    dragonflame_3@yahoo.com
    dragonflame_3@yahoo.com
    dragonflame_3@yahoo.com
    dragonflame_3@yahoo.com
    dragonflame_3@yahoo.com
    dragonflame_3@yahoo.com
    dragonflame_3@yahoo.com

  • Guest

    fwks@hotmail.de

  • Guest

    shadowrouge_wod@hotmail.com
    shadowrouge_wod@hotmail.com
    shadowrouge_wod@hotmail.com

    I liek men.

  • Guest

    SIGN ME UPPP

    Spacemonkey157@hotmail.com
    Spacemonkey157@hotmail.com
    Spacemonkey157@hotmail.com

    TwistedPenguin@hotmail.com
    TwistedPenguin@hotmail.com
    TwistedPenguin@hotmail.com
    TwistedPenguin@hotmail.com

  • Guest

    spam me

    • JAMILLIA CENTENO

      hi i read your article and info on tagged.com. im coming to you to see if you could help me out. imy account pass word gas been changed by someone else so how do i contact someone from tagged to get there attention and get my web page back…this person has locked me out and has addmitted to oing thid trough text messages to me…

  • Guest

    I’ve been using tagged.com for years now, when I ran into those pages, I just hit refresh, and resumed as normal. Originally I did what this user did, with a phony addy, but it then it me to refresh. I love tagged, and have not run into problems other than this one listed. Don’t mock what you don’t have the complete knowledge.

  • kt

    please add my email to any spam lists you know of

  • kt

    please add me to any spam lists you have/find!
    im testing new software

    ktuttle01@bellsouth.net
    ktuttle01@bellsouth.net
    ktuttle01@bellsouth.net
    ktuttle01@bellsouth.net

  • claire

    nederlands. wie wil zo graag een goede vriend van mij worden. ben 27

  • claire

    wie wil zo graag een goede vriend van mij worden. mijn nummer is 08622188. graag nederlandse taal

  • gracie

    i love spam but i have no friends.i love it. pliz add my e-mail

  • Miguel Rodriguez

    I love SPAM. SPAM me at miguelrodriguezandassociates@gmail.com

  • tara reilly

    I like guys

  • Eddy

    I do not understand exactly what the article from jumpstart is saying. Let’s say my email is planebiz@aol.com … and I put it into a list, would people be able to send me?

  • Gideon

    is a good site,so i need a serious friend to chat

  • Poop Mc Lolshock

    hey can you tell me when this site was created?

    • Poop Mc Lolshock

      also my friend spamed me so much i had to delete my email, could you return the favor at felixharveyjefferson@hotmail.com please!