If you're the kind of person who splits rent with roommates, frequently dines out in large groups, or has a recreational drug habit, Venmo is a fantastically hassle-free way to make payments. It is the rare internet startup that actually provides its users with a useful tool, rather than an attention-sucking advertisement delivery service disguised as a platform for connecting with friends. So why does Venmo insist on being a terrible social network, too?
In exchange for your banking information, Venmo allows you to send money to friends through a mobile app, like a more streamlined PayPal or an in-bank transfer system where everyone you know uses the same bank. As soon as you get over the nagging anxiety about handing the keys to your entire financial existence to some weirdo named Lucas, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
Regrettably, Venmo also provides you with a Twitter-style feed of friends' public activity, showing that Megan paid Sam for brunch at Balthazar, or Jimmy charged Jason for :fire emoji::leaf emoji::cigarette emoji::skull emoji:. This is where things get thorny. If, as the axiom suggests, talking about money isn't fit for polite company, why are we compelled to share our transactions with the world? Moreover, if all of this data is public, isn't anyone worried about privacy?
Venmo doesn't display dollar amounts (though it probably stores them privately), and its transaction descriptions are all user-generated, but there's still a lot you can learn about a person from his or her metadata history. Take Vicemo, a third-party website that displays all public Venmo transactions containing keywords like "booze," "drugs," "strippers," and "weed," as well as innuendo-heavy emoji like the pill, syringe, and mushroom. The result is a little terrifying, even if half of these people are joking.
Fortunately, there's an easy way to hide your payments from the world at large, if not from Venmo's own data-harvesting. A brief tutorial:
- Click the menu icon on the top-left of the screen.
- Select Settings, then Privacy & Sharing.
- In the Future Transactions dropdown menu, change audience to Private. (Or choose Friends if you're OK with buddies being all in your business, but not Vicemo snoopers.)
- Under Who Can Share Transactions Involving You?, select Only Me.
- If you'd like to retroactively privatize your entire history, select Make All Private under Past Transactions.
Voila. Now all your transactions will carry a small lock icon, and the only feeds they'll appear in are yours and those of the people you're paying. From here on out, all those payments for :eggplant::kiss mark::blushing face: are just between you, your significant other, Lucas, and God.