Venmo considers making it harder to see what other people are buying

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Tap on the Venmo app on your phone, and chances are you’ll greeted with a running list of payments made from one person to another for anything from brunch bills to rent payments. But the real-time ticker of strangers’ spending habits could soon go away.

In recent weeks, executives at PayPal Holdings Inc., the parent company of Venmo, were weighing whether to remove the option to post and view public transactions, said a person familiar with the deliberations. It’s unclear if those discussions are still ongoing, and regardless of the outcome, payments between friends would still be visible on the home feed, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.

“Venmo is always evaluating what’s best for our customers,” a PayPal spokesman wrote in an emailed statement. “The safety and privacy of Venmo users and their information is always a top priority, and we do a number of things to keep our users informed and help them protect and control their privacy.”

The debate inside PayPal was sparked by concerns over the privacy of its users. This summer, a researcher drew attention to Venmo’s privacy settings, which default to public, with her analysis of more than 200 million transactions on the platform. PayPal has said it gives users the option to only share with friends or with the recipient and can adjust this for each transaction.

A broader uproar over online privacy is encouraging companies to reevaluate their data policies. PayPal doesn’t regularly disclose active users on Venmo but said in April that the app processed more than $12 billion in transactions in the first quarter. Usage growth has been slowing, and PayPal is searching for ways to monetize the service.

Bloomberg News
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