Tagged for the Wrong Reasons

Posted on June 9, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

When I opened by email inbox one morning, I found a message from one of my friends. It encouraged me to join Tagged so that I could see pictures he had posted. I had heard of MySpace and Facebook as well as other social networking websites, but I was quite reluctant to join those and go searching for friends on the internet.
rube2
Because I had never heard of Tagged, I decided to do a bit of investigating on the internet to gather information about this web phenomenon. A Google search led me first to Wikipedia where I learned that in June 2009 TechCrunch ranked Tagged as the sixth most valuable social networking website in the world with a valuation of $920,000,000. Social Networking Watch ranked Tagged.com 4th, 9th, and 19th by Hitwise, Nielsen, and Comscore in December 2008.

With impressive results like those, why would I question participating in this social networking process? One statement in the Wikipedia article raised considerable doubt.

“Tagged provides a feature whereby users are invited to provide it with their email username and password, and it will then check their email address books for contacts and repeatedly send email invites to people who are not yet on Tagged, claiming that they have been ‘added as a friend’ or had photos of them tagged. This process has met some criticism in the technology press and from some users. The resemblance to a ‘virus’ has been often mentioned, including by watchdog sites like snopes.com.”

tagged
When I saw the statement referring to snopes.com, I knew I had to see what they had to say about Tagged. I had become very familiar with snopes.com when I coordinated a SAGE study group Hoaxes and Urban Legends a few years ago.
Snopes.com investigated the “Claim: E-mailed invitations from friends to join Tagged.com are a form of scam or virus.”

Snopes.com determined, “While these messages may not technically fall completely within either the ‘virus’ or ‘scam’ classifications (because they don’t furtively install malicious software on PC’s, nor is there intent to disable computers or obtain money through fraud behind them), the method by which they’re spread and their deceptiveness include elements of both classes.”

Tagged current terms of service include the following statement:

“MEMBERS CONSENT TO RECEIVE COMMERCIAL E-MAIL MESSAGES FROM TAGGED, AND ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT THEIR EMAIL ADDRESSES AND OTHER PERSONAL INFORMATION MAY BE USED BY TAGGED FOR THE PURPOSE OF INITIATING COMMERCIAL E-MAIL MESSAGES.”
snopes
As I read those terms of service, my red flag went up. By joining this social networking site, I would open myself up to tons of spam and my address book would be used to spam all the people I know. I was truly amazed that Tagged could achieve such enormous popularity under these conditions.

After receiving three emails that photos were awaiting me from my friend if I signed up for Tagged, I drafted an email to him.

Dear Phil,

Some social networking websites may not be what you think they are. We have been receiving requests to see photos from you on Tagged or that you have added us a friend and asking us to sign up for Tagged. Be careful about giving your email address and password to anyone because they will use this information to contact people in your address book and persuade them to sign up for Tagged.

Check these two websites for more information:

http://www.snopes.com/computer/internet/Tagged.asp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagged

Health and Joy,

Zel and Reuben Allen
Vegetarians in Paradise
http://www.vegparadise.com

By this time I had received another email from someone who had added me as a friend on Tagged. She received the same email.

My friend called me the next day and apologized profusely. He didn’t realize that he would be exposing his email list to Tagged spamming. He contacted Tagged and asked to be removed. He may have removed himself from Tagged, but I keep wondering if the people in his address book will continue receiving spam messages from Tagged.

Social Network Participants, Beware!

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