NEW YORK: Social network site is to be sued by New York attorney general Andrew Cuono "for deceptive email marketing practices and invasion of privacy."

Cuomo says Tagged tried to trick new members  into providing their personal address books which the company then used to send out more invitations. Tagged disguised these e-mail messages to make it appear as though a friend was inviting them to view personal photos.

"This company stole the address books and identities of millions of people," said Cuomo. "Consumers had their privacy invaded and were forced into the embarrassing position of having to apologize to all their email contacts for Tagged's unethical and illegal behavior.

"This very virulent form of spam is the online equivalent of breaking into a home, stealing address books and sending phoney mail to all of an individual's personal contacts. We would never accept this behaviour in the real world, and we cannot accept it online."

Tagged founder Greg Tseng has admitted to The New York Times that his company has received thousands of complaints and it did not want to jeopardize the "goodwill of the people."

The company suspended its email campaign temporarily in June but it is thought to have already sent out 60 million messages worldwide. Founder Tseng says the problem arose because Tagged was testing a new registration process and that this had confused some customers.

"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," he said.

"Today's announcement by New York attorney general Cuomo is disheartening. Identity theft and invasion of privacy are very serious allegations and it is not accurate to portray Tagged, or any other social network, in this regard," he added.

Data sourced from The New York Times; additional content by WARC staff