Venmo is a popular peer-to-peer payment app. It aims to make it easier to split the bill or pay someone back who fronted the money for a joint venture. While Venmo is convenient, there are potential serious privacy issues that come along with using the app. Venmo may be a payment app first and foremost; however, it also wants to be a “social network.” Unfortunately, like many social networks, this means user privacy is often a second thought. Here we show you how to make Venmo private to protect your privacy.
What’s the Privacy Problem with Venmo?
If you’re questioning why using Venmo may pose a privacy problem, do know that the app collects a scary amount of personal info about its users by default, often without them realizing it.
First off, all transactions are public by default. This means literally anyone can see how much you paid your friend for Rangers tickets using the app’s search function. In addition, Venmo aggressively encourages users to link their Facebook profiles and their phone’s contacts during the setup process. While it makes sending and receiving money from friends and family easy, these friend lists are also public. The ability to view anyone’s friend list and all of their transactions can paint a detailed picture of their personal lives. This information can then be exploited by anyone – be it a stalker or a data mining corporation.
The scariest part of all of this is that up until recently (June 2021), there was no way to make any of this information private. Even U.S. President Joe Biden, along with his friend list and transaction history, could be found in less than 10 minutes. Thankfully, PayPal-owned Venmo buckled under the scrutiny of privacy advocates and updated the app to allow users to choose which information could be shared. That being said, everything is still public by default, so you’ll need to manually activate the app’s privacy settings.
Make All (Past and Future) Transactions Private
To make all of your future transactions private – meaning that no random person will be able to see them:
1. Open Venmo and tap on the hamburger menu icon (three lines stacked on top of each other).
2. Tap “Settings -> Privacy.” Here you can set your default privacy setting to “Private.” Doing so will ensure that all future transactions will be private.
At this point, you’ll probably want to make all of your previous transactions private as well. This is particularly true for those with friends who like to put embarrassing things in the payment description field. Fortunately, it’s easy to do.
3. At the bottom of the Privacy menu, find the option labelled “Past Transactions” and tap on it.
4. You’ll have two different options: “Change All to Private” and “Change to Friends.” Opting for the latter means anyone in your friends list will still be able to see your transactions. We recommend the “Change All to Private” option. After all, does anyone really need to know that you split a pizza with Dave?
How to Make Your Friend List Private
Prior to June 2021, there was no way to make your friend list private. Fortunately, the latest update to the app grants users the ability to hide their friend list. If you are having trouble following the steps below, try updating the Venmo app through the iOS App Store or Google Play.
To make your Venmo friend list private:
1. Tap on the hamburger icon on the top left of the app.
2. From here, tap “Settings -> Privacy.”
3. In the Privacy menu, scroll down to the bottom and tap on “Friends List.” This will bring you to a new screen labelled “Friends List.”
4. Tap on the “Private” option to make it so that your friend list is only visible to you. A blue checkmark should appear in the “Private” field to indicate that the list is now private.
Directly underneath this option you should see a toggle switch labeled “Appear in other user’s friends list.” This is turned on by default, meaning your name will appear in the friends list of anyone who has added you. Since you can’t control which privacy settings others implement, we recommend flicking that switch to the “Off” position. This ensures that your name will not appear in any public friends list.
Prevent Being Found Through Facebook and Phone Contacts
When setting up a Venmo account, users are encouraged to link their phone’s contacts as well as their Facebook friends list. Most people opt to do this, as it gets them up and running quicker, saving them the hassle of having to manually enter every person they may want to send money to or receive money from. If you don’t want to be automatically added to anyone’s Venmo friends list, you can prevent that from happening with a few taps.
1. Open the Venmo app and tap on the hamburger menu icon in the top right.
2. Tap on “Settings.”
3. In the Settings menu, scroll down and tap on the option labeled “Friends & Social.”
4. In the “Friends & Social” menu that appears, you’ll see three toggle switches. Tap the switches next to the options labeled “Facebook Connect,” “Phone Contacts” and “Facebook Contacts.” This prevents Venmo from utilizing your contacts from Facebook or your phone to populate your Venmo friends list.
If you are bothered by Venmo’s privacy issues, you should either adjust the privacy settings or consider switching to another app, like Google Pay to manage your money. Are you concerned with Venmo’s privacy settings? Let us know in the comments!
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