Venmo transactions are public by default as part of its social strategy

Anyone can see what you're paying for.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read

Unless you change your settings, anyone can see your Venmo transactions.


If you haven't noticed, your Venmo transaction history is public by default. Unless you change the settings, people can see when you buy things. 

Now, why would the PayPal-owned payment app do such a thing? Because the Venmo doubles as a social network

"We make it default because it's fun to share [information] with friends in the social world," a Venmo representative told CNET Friday. "[We've seen that] people open up Venmo to see what their family and friends are up to."

Venmo might not spring to mind as a social network like  Facebook  and  Twitter . But the payments service sees transactions as a way to interact, the same way they do with status updates and tweets. 

Roughly 207 million transactions are already public and searchable on Venmo, according to CNET sister site ZDNet, which cited a researcher in Berlin.

The Venmo representative noted that lots of social platforms set their newsfeeds public by default. 

Of course, those other social platforms don't necessarily tell people what you're buying, a situation that's been highlighted by @venmodrugs, a Twitter bot that can track your payments for drugs, booze and sex, and then post them on the social network. The bot's creator, Joel Guerra, says he wanted to remind people to change their Venmo setting to private.

Venmo says the option to go private is clearly marked in the app.

"Our response to [privacy concerns] is giving customers a choice to choose private or public for each transaction in the right-hand corner," said the Venmo spokesperson.


You can select Private for your transactions.


When asked if Venmo will consider making transaction histories private by default in the future, the spokesperson said that would depend on customers' responses.

If you use "Pay with Venmo" or Venmo Card, which are Venmo transactions to merchants, your payment history will be private like it is on PayPal.