You are what you pay: A Case Study in Venmo

  • Mrunmayee Khare , Rajvardhan Oak


With the advent of the Internet Age, digital payments have become the cornerstone of the economy. From vendors on the street to billion dollar corporations, all entities accept payments through digital modes. Venmo, a mobile application by PayPal is popular for facilitating peer-to-peer digital transactions without a fee. Users can request or send money to other users by scanning a QR Code, or via a phone number or email address. While the primary purpose of the app is money transfer, Venmo goes a step ahead and adds a social component to it: users can add others as friends, like or dislike transactions, and even leave comments. Our study aims to understand privacy issues in using Venmo for monetary transactions. To this end, we examine the Venmo activity of N = 10 users, and conduct follow-up semi-structured interviews with them. We discover that transactions on Venmo are public by default, and need specific user effort to make them private. These transactions can potentially reveal information about a user's habits, preferences, financial circumstances, family and friends. Friend lists are publicly visible to others. The privacy settings section of the application is obscure and hard to find. Based on our digital investigation and user study, we provide a set of recommendations that can improve user privacy in payment apps, even those that have a social component. 

How to Cite
Mrunmayee Khare , Rajvardhan Oak. (2021). You are what you pay: A Case Study in Venmo. International Journal of Advanced Science and Technology, 30(01), 318 - 324. Retrieved from