President Biden and Congressman Matt Gaetz found themselves in strange company last month. In President Biden's case, internet sleuths sniffed out his personal Venmo. In Congressman Gaetz' situation, the FBI followed breadcumbs from his publicly posted list of transactions to build a case against one of his close allies. All of this shined a bright, and unwelcome, light on Venmo, which has become a popular peer to peer payment app.
If you are not familiar, Venmo, which is one of many similar applications, allows users to send and receive money instantaneously. It makes splitting the bill at dinner a breeze. And it is becoming an essential tool for small businesses from the babysitter to the dog groomer and beyond.
There for the viewing, though a little under the surface, is a transaction history feed that shows not only your own personal transactions, but the transactions of those in your Venmo network, your Venmo friends. In fact, scrolling through in preparation for this blog, I see friends who have sent money for rent, graduation gifts, coffee, dinner, drinks, and gas. I know that one of my friends is going to see Michael Franti in concert soon, and another is headed to - or just back from - a bachelorette party. One friend recently had her hair done, and lots of parents are sending money back and forth for all things related to their kids.
Maybe you don't care if I - or the world - can see these details. It's pretty benign; though I did see a poop emoji as the memo line in one transaction. I am asking no further questions on that. But, they say "follow the money" for a reason. Our spending is a candid window into our personal lives, preferences, vices, and more. How much you spend on rent or personal care or entertainment, or really anything, is private information that could be used to your detriment. It is probably information best kept out of public view.
This week Venmo updated its app to allow users to hide both their transaction history and friends list. Here is how you do it.
- Open the Venmo app.
- Click the three bar icon in the top right corner.
- Click "Settings."
- Click "Privacy."
- Change your default privacy setting for future transactions to "Private." This will remove your payments/receipts from public view.
- On the same menu page, click "Friends List," which is at the bottom of the screen.
- Change the "My Friends List" privacy setting to "Private." Now your friends list is visible only to you.