Venmo’s Public Feed is usually Bad along with They Should End the item

There’s no Great reason to have a public feed of your Venmo activity.

Posted on July 20, 2018, at 4:37 p.m. ET

If you can come up using a reason for Venmo to still have a public feed of users’ transactions — different than “Ummm, they had This particular feature since the start along with probably haven’t reconsidered the item” — please tell me. I’d love to know.

Because from the year of our Lord 2018, I can think of 0.0 Great explanations due to This particular blatant disregard of user privacy. the item benefits no one, the item’s creepy, along with the item’s proven which people can use the item for nefarious or humiliating purposes, as we’ll discuss in a moment.

Venmo should get rid of This particular feature, period.

This particular week, a Twitter account started out tweeting the full names along with profile photos of people who had made public transactions on Venmo which used drug or alcohol terms in their payment descriptions. Some of these were clearly jokes, nevertheless some are probably quite humiliating along with real. People’s names along with photos, along with the suggestion which they do drugs, are at This particular point being put on a much larger along with visible platform which will be indexed by Google. This particular is usually a kind of doxxing — taking information which is usually available on a smaller, more obscure platform (the Venmo public feed) along with putting the item out on a broader platform (Twitter) designed to humiliate these people.

The programmer, Joel Guerra, who created the Twitter bot told Motherboard, “I wanted to demonstrate how much data Venmo was generating publicly available with their open API along with their public by default settings along with encourage people to consider their privacy settings.”

He was building off of the work of privacy researcher Hang Do Thi Duc, who made a project called Public by Default in which she combed through public Venmo data for interpersonal dramas. In her description of the project, she wrote, “I think the item’s problematic which there is usually a public feed which includes real names, their profile links (to access past transactions), possibly their Facebook IDs along with essentially their network of friends they spend time with. along with all of This particular is usually so easy to access!”


When you sign up for Venmo, your transactions are set by default to Public.

A spokesperson for Venmo pointed out which they do have customizable privacy settings. Venmo offers three options: Public, Friends (visible to your friends along with your recipient’s friends), along with Private. You can change the setting for each payment or set a default — nevertheless when you sign up, your default is usually set to Public so “everyone on the Internet can see, comment on, along with enjoy the item with you.”

“Venmo was designed for sharing experiences with your friends in today’s social world, along with the news feed has always been a big part of This particular,” a Venmo spokesperson said in a statement over email.

I’d argue privacy should be default. the item shouldn’t be the burden of users to dig through their settings along with find the menu where they can opt-in to privacy.

Even if the item’s easy to make your transaction private (although I’d quibble about just how obvious along with easy the item is usually), the item doesn’t explain why a “Public” setting needs to exist to begin with. Venmo did not explain to different reporters who recently asked the same question. So I have a suggestion: Just get rid of the item!

I’m not the only one who finds This particular feature problematic. This particular past winter, Venmo’s parent company settled an FTC complaint about Venmo’s privacy settings. the item wasn’t clear to many users how to make transactions fully private. Since then, Venmo has streamlined the privacy settings.

from the beginning, being able to see your friends’ activity is usually part of what Venmo helped stand out by competing payment apps like Square Cash, generating Venmo the VHS to the Square’s Betamax. The friend feed was cheeky along with the item reinforced the millennial-targeted concept of “social transactions,” unlike boring PayPal (although Venmo was bought by the parent company of PayPal shortly after its public launch in 2012).

Most importantly, you could see which your friends actually used the app. which was key for the nascent product, along using a stroke of marketing genius. the item lent Venmo a kind of legitimacy: “Hey look! There’s people you trust on here — the item’s not too shady to give your bank info to This particular random fresh app!”

The Friends setting seems strangely beloved by many users, although of course even This particular can cause problems: A friend told me which’s how her friends realized she was hooking up with an ex. Another said they found out their different friends had all gone out together along with didn’t invite them through Venmo. the item’s a weird attempt at generating a utilitarian payment app into a chill cool social network, even though, I, like, never actually want to see what my friends are buying on their Chase cards.

nevertheless Venmo is usually no longer just a neat way to pay back friends. You can at This particular point use the item to pay for things at stores which accept PayPal. along with the item just announced a partnership with Uber where you can use your Venmo balance to pay for an Uber ride (This particular does not show up on your activity feed). So as Venmo graduates to a real form of payment, why stick to This particular weird, gimmicky interface where you can see what strangers your friends just paid?

The public feed is usually simply out of step with how we understand along with expect a peer-to-peer payment app to work.

the item’s 2018, post–Cambridge Analytica, post–massive data breach, post–FTC settlement, along with people care about their privacy. We demand along with expect the item on social platforms along with the apps we use.

Venmo already has some imperfect privacy features, like how you can’t make your profile undiscoverable or prevent strangers by sending or requesting money. Just ask former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who people discovered was using Venmo along with started out flooding with trollish requests; he had no way to stop the item.

I guarantee most of the people on the public feed of Venmo either don’t realize how easy the item is usually for people to monitor their activity or could be weirded out to realize which anyone — not just their friends — can see their payments. They’re not dumb, along with the item’s not their fault. They have a reasonable expectation of privacy on a financial app, even if the item claims to have social functions.

The public feed is usually simply out of step with how we understand along with expect a peer-to-peer payment app to work. Venmo should get rid of the item. Anyway, thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

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    Katie Notopoulos is usually a senior editor for BuzzFeed News along with is usually based in fresh York. Notopoulos writes about tech along with internet culture along with is usually cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast.

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