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Venmo Users Beware: Your Life Is Being Broadcasted for the World to See

The phrase “just Venmo me later” has a different meaning now.

Alex Mauriello

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Embarking on a spontaneous road trip but forgot to bring cash? Having dinner with a large group but can’t figure out how to split the bill? Since its debut in 2009, Venmo has rescued high school and college kids alike from these and other potentially embarrassing incidents.

But what most Venmo users may not realize is that every purchase, every transaction, every late-night margarita and shot of tequila, can be easily viewed and tracked by anyone in the world.

This might not seem like a big deal to some, but consider this: to some family members, potential employers, and even recruiters, social media is the only tool they have that can define you as a person distinct from any other. A recent report by designer-activist Hang Do Thi Duc proved that one can track millions of transaction histories with just the click of a button. She was able to deduce that one user was clearly a drug-dealer, based on the fact that his “customers pay him via Vemno for ‘CBD, [and] various ‘tree emojis.” Duc was also able to determine his exact location, because some of his customers linked their Venmo to their Facebook account.

Another user, a female student, was found to have made 965 transactions for alcoholic beverages, soda, candy, and fast food within the past eight months. Although this may seem fairly typical for the average college student, Duc points out that he “could imagine that insurance companies might want to look at her data and make judgments about her health,” and it could potentially affect her ability to obtain health coverage and maintain affordable costs.

The solution? Change your Venmo settings to private. Your future (crazy, wild, sweet-obsessed) self will thank you.

Are you looking for social media training and experience? Join CMN’s Social Media for Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to journalism influencers and mentors, and a great place to display your work. You can get academic credit too. Check out the Social Media Course here.

Alex Mauriello is a senior English major with a Biology minor at The College of New Jersey. She loves pizza, her dogs, and using excessive amounts of sarcasm whenever possible.

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