It all started with a passing mention. Friday, in the New York Times published a story on what life was like in President Joe Biden’s White House. At the function, the outlet noted that Biden had sent money to his grandchildren with Venmo, which encouraged a curious “Oh?” from yours really. Yet I was not the only one intrigued. That same day, people came in Buzzfeed news would have found the president’s Venmo account.
According to the fascinating Buzzfeed account, which you can read about at all here, It took less than 10 minutes to find the presumed Biden account on Venmo using the app’s search tool and the public friends feature. The outlet also found what appeared to be accounts for nearly a dozen members of the Biden family, including First Lady Jill Biden, as well as senior White House officials and their respective contacts in the app.
The incident triggered alarm bells in the digital security community and put one on Venmo the most criticized functionality, his list of public friends, in the spotlight. Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, does not allow users to make their friends list private. In fact, Buzzfeed said he was able to easily check Biden’s account by looking at people he was connected to, such as Jill Biden.
The president had less than 10 friends on the app, the outlet found. In comparison, the first lady’s account had several friends, including helpers, Biden staff, family members, and an account that appeared to belong to Hunter Biden, the president’s son. And even having a public list of friends may not seem like a big deal to some, experts say it can allow for persecution, harassment, spying and deception.
After Buzzfeed came to the White House for his story, Biden’s connections on his list of public friends were removed (the app allows you to drive out friends matching them manually). By the end of Friday, Buzzfeed said accounts related to the president and Jill Biden had disappeared.
The outlet did not disclose usernames for accounts believed to belong to Joe Biden, Jill Biden, the Biden family, and White House officials out of concern for national security.
Gizmodo approached Venmo for a comment on the matter on Saturday. We asked Venmo if it had any specific security measures in place for high-profile individuals who use the app but have not received a response.
“The security and privacy of all Venmo users and their information is always a top priority, and we take this responsibility very seriously,” Venmo said in a statement. “Customers still have the ability to make their transactions private and determine their own privacy settings in the app. We are constantly evolving and enforcing confidentiality measures for all Venmo users to continue to provide a secure location. and sure to send and spend money ”.
This is not a new problem. Venmo has been receiving criticism over her list of public friends for years. In 2018, u The Wall Street Journal asked him because users could not make their lists private.
“Because Venmo was designed to share experiences with your friends in today’s social world, we try to make it as easy as possible to connect you with other Venmo users,” a voice said at the time.
Personally, I choose safety to share experiences every day of the week. However, the biggest point here is the one we’ve been hearing a lot lately: choice. Maybe I don’t want to share my transactions or my friends list, but maybe my neighbor. We should be given the choice on whether to share – and be fully aware of the risks if we don’t – not be forced to do so because Venmo has been “conceived” as such.
As for President Biden’s alleged Venmo account, there is no doubt that the president does not prefer to create a national security crisis when he tries to send his grandchildren some expenses. While it is clear that the White House should take appropriate precautions and measures in this case, Venmo should also make security a priority. Apparently he didn’t.