Popular payment app creates privacy risk for users

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CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Sending and receiving money online is easier than ever, but could it expose your personal information?

Many Americans rely on apps like Venmo, PayPal and Zelle. They allow cash to be sent from a smartphone through a linked bank account or card.

Now, it appears one of the popular apps is even used by the president of the United States.

In a recent New York Times article discussing President Joe Biden’s first few months in office, there was a mention that he sends his grandchildren money on Venmo.

That sent a group of reporters searching for his profile, including BuzzFeed’s Ryan Mac.

“We picked up on that line because we’ve done a lot of reporting on Venmo in the past,” said Mac.

Thanks to Venmo’s search tool and public friends feature, BuzzFeed News found Biden’s account in a matter of 10 minutes.

During the process, it revealed nearly a dozen members of the Biden family.

“It is a major national security concern. I mean, you have the world’s most powerful person, the president of the United States. His network is now exposed to the world, not only his network but also his family, his aides, other White House cabinet members,” said Mac.

The president and first lady’s Venmo accounts were removed after the BuzzFeed report.

“The company takes the privacy of its customers seriously,” said a Venmo spokesperson. “Users have the ability to gauge their own privacy settings.”

Security technologist Bruce Schneier disagrees.

“So Venmo is a payment platform that is a privacy disaster. All of your transactions are public by default. You can change that. And most people don’t because they don’t know how. And all of your friends are public and you can’t change that,” said Schneier.

He remarked that it’s problematic, not just the president, but ordinary people.

“If their transactions are exposed, imagine if your credit card receipts are made public,” said Schneier.

He warns consumers to be careful because there are people who will abuse the app.

“Therapists had patients lists exposed because they use Venmo. Women have had boyfriends stalk them because information on Venmo. Reporters have had sources exposed because of Venmo,” said Schneier.

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