Blake Dowling: Plenty of places to overshare; Venmo isn’t one of them

KONSKIE, POLAND - SEPTEMBER 15, 2018: Venmo logo on smartphone
Venmo should not be a social platform, it should just be a financial one.

Do you use Venmo? Other payment apps?

As for me, I would write ridiculous comments in the “what is this payment for” section.

Since some high-profile commentary became known, I decided that is not the best place for comedy. I used to do the same things with paper checks when that was a thing too.

Bankers would love it when the memo line would say something like — Brown Paper Bag (Fletch), Steroids, Enron Legal Team, Hamburger Helper Foundation, or Save Ferris.

This spring, Venmo use in Florida was all over the news with U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz.

We all get to be presumed innocent, so we will let that play out.

How about in D.C.? A story broke this month about President Joe Biden and all his Venmo contacts being easily tracked leading to a quick delete all and change of preferences by the White House team.

We should all do the same.

Posting ridiculous (or not so ridiculous) pics of your cat on Instagram is one thing, but your financial network needs to stay private.

Venmo should not be a social platform, it should just be a financial one.

There are plenty of other places to overshare online. Do you really need the world to see that you just paid your friend back $200 for a Miley Cyrus concert ticket?

To be fair to the two elected officials mentioned above, who are now under a microscope, we can learn from them and tighten up our use of the platform by making things private on currency transfer sites like Venmo.

Here’s some history on the app.

PayPal owns Venmo, which handled over $150 billion in transactions in 2020 (up from $102 billion in 2019). They currently have over 50 million accounts/clients.

Founded in 2009 by two roommates at the University of Pennsylvania, Venmo has recently become a household name — like Google and Zoom — as they sit as one of the Top 5 payment apps.

Just like any digital platform, hacking, privacy, and misuse come to mind — especially ones with access to your dollars. We all should have a serious case of cyber-in-security by now.

Speaking of which, just writing this brought to mind a buddy of mine whose kid got on his phone and downloaded $1000 worth of paid apps from the iTunes store in a single day.

Who says kids aren’t super-fun?

Returning to Venmo: There is a list of options at the bottom right of the Venmo app that asks if you would like the transaction to be public/private/or friends only.

I highly recommend checking the box for private, regardless of your line of work; horse trainer, hat model, or U.S. Senator. It doesn’t matter. Someone is watching: media, hackers, stalkers, etc. No one needs to know who, where or why you are sending money.

Also, if you use these apps, passwords become even more and more important: on the app, your bank, and on your phone. Make sure your phone requires a code to open; facial recognition is nice, too, it’s one less thing.

And never, ever, ever use public Wi-Fi. Criminals are waiting for you to do this and will jump on your phone and apps, changing your account credentials. You’ll be cleaning up for days once you realize they are wiping you out.

The bottom line: Venmo is a great tool and I love it. So, I reached out to them to see what they say about privacy and these stories in the news.

A Venmo spokesperson from New York said:

“The safety and privacy of all Venmo users and their information is always a top priority, and we take this responsibility very seriously. Customers always have the ability to make their transactions private and determine their own privacy settings in the app. We’re consistently evolving and strengthening the privacy measures for all Venmo users to continue to provide a safe, secure place to send and spend money.”

She did not have much else to say, considering she was locked down in New York City the past year and not enjoying the great state of Florida. (Who’s to blame her?)

We all have a massive responsibility of managing our online footprint, from passwords to contact info, crazy cat pics, and the subject of your Venmo transactions. Plus, there is the actual content that you are posting.

Social media will always be a hot topic, and the government and companies themselves are still trying to figure it all out (and fight it out).

So, be safe out there.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at www.aegisbiztech.com



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