You wouldn’t expect social media features in a money payment app, but that’s exactly what peer-to-peer app Venmo offers. Many users may not realize that Venmo transactions are public by default.
Venmo has three main tabs: one for your personal transactions, one for all the transactions made by friends (i.e. people on your phone’s contact list), and one for all transactions made by people who have their payments completely public.
Luckily it only takes a few easy steps to turn this feature off.
Why Are Public Transactions an Issue?
Venmo’s public transaction feature received a lot of attention when Berlin-based researcher Hang Do Thi Duc was able to use Venmo’s API to put together a site aggregating all that public information. She revealed that over 200 million transactions were made publicly in 2017 alone.
While Do Thi Duc’s experiment itself didn’t reveal any personal information about Venmo users, a Twitter bot by Joel Guerra soon followed and revealed all kinds of public transactions relating to drug, alcohol, and sex-related purchases—along with the first name and last initial of each transaction’s user.
How to Make Your Venmo Transactions Private
If you haven’t already, you should fire up Venmo and turn this feature off. To do this, do the following:
- Tap the Menu (hamburger) button > Settings > Privacy.
- Under Default Privacy Settings select Private.
- To make any past transactions private, under More, tap Past Transactions and tap Change All to Private.
Venmo’s public transactions could also be used in targeted advertising, adding to the already very long list of ways that your information could be exploited by online marketers.