Biden’s alleged Venmo account was found in less than 10 minutes

Illustration for the article titled President Biden's Alleged Venmo Account was found in less than 10 minutes, then quickly vanished

Photo: Patrick semansky (AP)

It all started with a passing mention. Friday, The New York Times published a report what life was like in the White House of President Joe Biden. In the report, the outlet noted that Biden sent money to his grandchildren using Venmo, which elicited an “Oh?” Curious. yours really. I wasn’t the only one intrigued, however. That same day, the people of Buzzfeed News allegedly found the President’s Venmo account.

Based on the fascinating Buzzfeed story, which you can read in full here, it took less than 10 minutes to find Biden’s purported account on Venmo using the app’s search tool and the public friends feature. The outlet also found what appeared to be accounts for nearly a dozen members of the Biden family, including First Lady Jill Biden, as well as senior White House officials and their respective contacts on the application.

The incident raised alarm bells in the digital security community and put one of the Venmo most criticized features, his list of public friends, in the spotlight. Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, does not allow users to make their friends list private. In fact, Buzzfeed said he was able to easily verify Biden’s account by looking at people he was connected with, such as Jill Biden.

The president had less than 10 friends on the app, the point of sale found. By comparison, the first lady’s account had a number of friends, including assistants, Biden staff, family members, and an account that appeared to belong to Hunter Biden, the president’s son. And while having a public friend list might not seem like a big deal to some, experts say it can lead to stalking, harassment, espionage and deception.

After Buzzfeed contacted the White House for his story, Biden’s connections to his public friends list were eliminated (the app lets you delete friends by deleting them manually). At the end of Friday, Buzzfeed reported that accounts linked to the president and Jill Biden were gone.

The outlet did not disclose the usernames of accounts believed to belong to Joe Biden, Jill Biden, the Biden family and White House officials out of national security concerns.

Gizmodo reached out to Venmo for comment on the matter on Saturday. We asked Venmo if it has specific security measures in place for high profile people who use the app but have not received a response.

“The security and privacy of all Venmo users and their information is always a top priority, and we take this responsibility very seriously,” Venmo said in a statement. “Customers always have the option of making their transactions private and setting their own privacy settings in the app. We are constantly improving and strengthening the privacy measures for all Venmo users to continue to provide a safe and secure place to send and spend money. ”

This is not a new problem. Venmo has been criticized for its list of public friends for years. In 2018, the The Wall Street Journal asked for it why users couldn’t make their lists private.

“Because Venmo was designed to share experiences with your friends in today’s social world, we try to make it as easy as possible to connect with other Venmo users,” a spokesperson told the time.

Personally, I favor security over sharing experiences any day of the week. However, the most important point here is one that we have heard a lot about lately: choice. Maybe I don’t want to share my transactions or my friends list, but maybe my neighbor does. We should have the choice to share – and be fully informed of the risks if we do – not be forced to do so because Venmo was “designed” that way.

As for President Biden’s alleged Venmo account, there is no doubt that the President would rather not create a national security crisis by trying to send his grandchildren pocket money. While it is clear that the White House should have taken appropriate precautions and action in this case, Venmo should have made security a priority as well. Apparently this was not the case.

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