Got Venmo? Protect Your Privacy

Got Venmo? Protect Your Privacy
By Anonymous | June 18, 2021

Phones With Venmo

Last month, BuzzfeedNews discovered President Joe Biden’s Venmo account and his public friends list. President Joe Biden’s and First Lady Jill Biden’s Venmo accounts were removed online the day the news broke. This news prompted Venmo to implement a new feature that allows users to hide their friends list. However, the default option for a users’ friend list is public so users will be able to see others’ friends unless they manually select to hide the list. The incident with President Joe Biden’s Venmo account and Venmo’s new feature have reraised concerns about Venmo’s privacy. Here’s some answers to some commonly asked questions about Venmo and Venmo’s privacy policy.

What Data Does Venmo Collect?

Currently, according to its privacy policy, Venmo collects a host of personal data including your name, address, email, telephone number, information about what device you are using to access Venmo, financial information (your bank account information), SNN (or other governmental issued verification numbers), geolocation information (your location), and social media information if you decide to connect your Venmo account with social media such as Twitter, FourSquare, and Facebook.

When you register for a personal Venmo account, you must verify your phone address, your email, and your bank account.

Why Should You Care About Venmo’s Privacy?

A lot of Venmo users view Venmo as a fun social media platform where they can share their transactions with accompanying notes and descriptions. They figure they’re not doing anything wrong so why should they care if their transactions are public? They don’t have anything to hide. It is not just about hiding bad information, although this may be some users’ goal, but also protecting good information from others. What do I mean by this?

According to Venmo’s privacy policy, “public information may also be seen, accessed, reshared or downloaded through Venmo’s APIs or third-party services that integrate with our products” meaning that all of your public transactions and associated comments are available to the public. Even non Venmo users can discover your data by accessing the API.

In 2018, Mozilla Fellow Hang Do Thi Duc released “Public By Default”, an analysis of all 207,984,218 public Venmo transactions from 2017. Through these transactions, she was able to discover drug dealers, breakups, and the routine life of a married couple. She was able to discover such information as where the married couple shopped and what days they usually went to the grocery store, what gas they used, and what restaurants they usually ate at. She was able to discover a drug dealer and where he lived based on his public transaction comments and the fact that his Facebook was linked to his Venmo. Thus, Venmo transactions can act as a map of your daily activities. It can be quite easy to learn about an individual through both their transactions and friends list.

Example Venmo API Image
Image of Venmo API

Your personal data may become more publicly available if you connect your account to third parties such as social media platforms. According to Venmo’s privacy policy, data shared with a “third-party based on an account connection will be used and disclosed in accordance with the third-party’s privacy practices” and “may in turn be shared with certain other parties, including the general public, depending on the account’s or platform’s privacy practices.” This means that if you connect your account with a third party, Venmo and the third party will exchange personally identifiable information about you. The information Venmo shares about you with the third party is subject to the third party’s privacy meaning that data is no longer protected by Venmo’s privacy policy. If the third party’s privacy policy states that personal information can be shared publicly, private information you have shared with Venmo can then become public.

How Can You Protect Your Privacy?

You can protect your data by making both your transactions and friends list private. These are both automatically public. You can also make your past transactions private and prevent Venmo from collecting some of your location data by turning location services for Venmo off using your mobile device. Article for how to do both of these here.This should prevent anyone from publicly accessing your Venmo transactions or friends list and prevent some geolocation tracking although Venmo may still be able to view your location.

Venmo Privacy Settings
Venmo Privacy Settings

Also be sure to read a firm’s privacy policy before you decide to connect your account with them in any way. Before connecting with any social media apps, if you haven’t already, read the social media platform’s privacy policy to see if their privacy practices match with what you would feel comfortable sharing. If you’ve already connected with social media apps, be sure to read the privacy policies of other third parties that ask to connect with your account in the future.

You should also be cautious about your Venmo profile picture. You may figure if you regret a past Venmo profile picture, you can just delete this photo and post a new one. However, this is not the case. It is still possible to recover a user’s old Venmo profile picture after they have replaced it with a new one simply by changing the photo’s URL. Try to post photos that you do not mind being public for the foreseeable future.

In summary, privacy matters especially when it concerns financial data that reveals patterns about your lifestyle. Set your transactions and friends list to private, turn off location services, be wary of connecting your account to third parties, and post profile pictures that you do not mind being public.


Duc Do Thi, Hang. (2018). Public By Default [Project].

How to Sign Up for a personal Venmo account. Venmo. (2021).

Mac, R., McDonald, L., Notopoulos, K., & Brooks, R. (2021, May 15). We Found Joe Biden On Venmo. Here’s Why That’s A Privacy Nightmare For Everyone. BuzzFeed News.

Mozilla Foundation. (2019, August 28). Venmo, Are You Listening? Make User Privacy the Default. Mozilla .

Notopoulos, K. (2021, May 19). Venmo Exposes All The Old Profile Photos You Thought Were Gone. BuzzFeed News.

Payment Activity & Privacy. Venmo. (2021).

Perelli, A. (2021, May 30). Venmo added new privacy options after President Joe Biden’s account was discovered. Business Insider.

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