Social Networking Site 'Annoying' or Illegal?

N.Y. attorney general's office probes alleged identity theft by

ByABC News
July 9, 2009, 8:55 AM

July 9, 2009— -- When Time magazine reporter Sean Gregory got an e-mail from a friend saying she'd posted photos on the social networking Web site, he logged on to see them.

But there were no pictures, and his friend did not send him the e-mail. Instead, Gregory says, it was a ruse designed to steal his online address book.

"As soon as I clicked it, I got these e-mails from my wife and best friends saying, 'What the heck is this? Should I touch this?'" Gregory recalls. "It made me so angry that I wrote about it for"

The headline on his article, "Tagged: The World's Most Annoying Web site," expresses his frustration.

But the New York attorney general's office says the site did more than just annoy the e-mail recipients: The office is investigating claims the company stole personal contact information from millions of unsuspecting people.

Gregory, investigators say, was one of 60 million people -- and 5 million in New York alone -- allegedly duped by Tagged.

The allegations involve a practice called "contact scraping," which security experts say is a growing, invasive form of identity theft.

Investigators say the site uses a person's e-mail address to lure his or her friends and associates into giving up their personal contacts.

Here is how investigators say the process works: After a user logs in to a social networking Web site, the site captures the user's contact list, which is often stored in an e-mail account. The site then uses the contacts it takes to send e-mail "invitations" or updates to everyone in the contact list on behalf of a user.