Dear Venmo: Update Your Privacy Settings

Last month, privacy researcher and Mozilla Fellow Hang Do Thi Duc released Public By Default, a sobering look at the vast amount of personal data that’s easily accessible on Venmo, the mobile payment app.

By using Venmo’s public API and its “public by default” setting for user transactions, Hang was able to watch a couple feud on Valentine’s Day, observe a woman’s junk food habits, and peer into a marijuana dealer’s business operations. Seven million people use Venmo every month — and many may not know that their transactions are available for anyone to see.

Privacy, and not publicity, should be the default.

Despite widespread coverage of Hang’s work — and a petition by Mozilla that has garnered more than 17,000 signatures — Venmo transactions are still public by default.

But on August 23, Bloomberg reported that “In recent weeks, executives at PayPal Holdings Inc., the parent company of Venmo, were weighing whether to remove the option to post and view public transactions, said a person familiar with the deliberations. It’s unclear if those discussions are still ongoing.”

Today, we’re urging Venmo: See these important discussions through. Put users’ privacy first by making transactions private by default.

Ashley Boyd is Mozilla’s VP of Advocacy.

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