Venmo Curbs Visibility on Payments So Strangers Can’t See Them

Venmo is ditching its global social feed, making it so users can no longer see payments between people they don’t know.

The app, owned by PayPal Holdings Inc., will continue to allow users to see transactions among their friends, according to a blog post Tuesday. The move comes after Venmo has seen its customer base swell to 70 million during the pandemic.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to continually evolve the Venmo platform, while staying true to the heart of the Venmo experience, we are removing the global feed,” according to the post. “This change allows customers to connect and share meaningful moments and experiences with the people who matter most.”

Venmo Curbs Visibility on Payments So Strangers Can’t See Them

Venmo has for years faced criticism for its privacy controls. At times, the app’s default setting was to make transactions public, and it was easy to find and see users’ friends lists. That issue came to a head in May, when BuzzFeed News uncovered President Joe Biden’s Venmo account and his network of friends on the app, highlighting a national-security issue.

The app recently started allowing customers to choose if they want their friends list to be public, viewable by friends or entirely private, according to the blog. Customers can also now choose whether they want to have their profile show up on other users’ friends lists.

“In addition, customers continue to have the ability to add or remove contacts from their friend list at any time,” according to the post. “Customers can also choose to block other Venmo customers, which will ensure that the blocked user will not show up in their Venmo network, and they won’t be able to search for them in the app (and vice versa).”

Venmo will be introducing a new feature this week that allows users to mark that they’re paying for a good or service -- rather than, say, reimbursing a friend for dinner using a pizza emoji. Selecting the new option will mean a purchase is covered by Venmo’s protection plan, and that the payment recipient will be charged a fee to receive the money.

Those changes have prompted consternation among small businesses, from hair salons to lawn-maintenance companies, who have come to rely on Venmo as a free way to receive payments. Some started campaigns on social media asking customers to forgo purchase protection and not use Venmo’s new designations.

“This week, the feature will begin to roll out to select customers, allowing both buyers and sellers to transact with peace of mind,” according to the post. “With this new functionality, customers will be able to buy and sell in new and exciting ways -- from selling concert tickets to a friend of a friend or purchasing a couch from a local ad listing.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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