Venmo has a major privacy flaw that’s been well-known for years: there’s no way to keep your list of Venmo contacts private. That means you can see the contact list of any user on the platform, a flaw that’s so large that BuzzFeed News was able to track down President Joe Biden’s Venmo account in less than 10 minutes.
BuzzFeed News didn’t just find the president, though; the publication also discovered accounts for many people in Biden’s inner circle, and, because of the nature of this flaw, all of their contacts as well:
BuzzFeed News found nearly a dozen Biden family members and mapped out a social web that encompasses not only the first family, but a wide network of people around them, including the president’s children, grandchildren, senior White House officials, and all of their contacts on Venmo.
BuzzFeed News dug in after seeing a mention of Biden sending his grandchildren money over Venmo in a New York Times article published Friday. Biden’s transactions weren’t public (unlike Matt Gaetz’s, at one point), and all of Biden’s friends on Venmo were removed after BuzzFeed News contacted the White House for comment, the publication reported. (Venmo gives you the ability to remove contacts, but you have to do it manually.)
When asked for comment on the situation, Venmo provided the following statement:
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.
As of press time, Venmo has not replied to a question asking if the company plans to let people make their contact lists private, which could help prevent something like this from happening in the future.