Today, Venmo announced it will be removing its global feed, a feature that let users see transactions between total strangers.
This is a big win for consumer privacy and a huge change for a company that, until recently, claimed that users valued this privacy-intrusive feed, despite strong evidence to the contrary.
Venmo’s removal of the global feed means that you can no longer snoop on strangers' drug habits, eating preferences, or romantic spats in the app.
After more than three years, 30k + petition signatures, countless news stories scrutinizing Venmo, and a presidential privacy scandal, we applaud Venmo for finally getting the message and eliminating its creepy global news feed.
While we are excited about this change, we have one lingering concern. The global feed will no longer be available when users update their app, but it’s still unclear whether Venmo will make transactions private by default, therefore showing only opt-in transactions on users’ individual timelines and on its public API.
Without that level of protection, any motivated and somewhat tech-savvy person can use the public API or profile pages to snoop on public Venmo transactions, comments and more. Additionally, without the public feed in the app to remind them, more Venmo users may not be aware that their activity on Venmo is public by default – unless they take steps to change their privacy settings.
For this reason, we hope Venmo will soon confirm that it will protect the privacy of transactions by default. This additional step would prevent Venmo voyeurs from creeping on people’s public transactions without their knowledge.
Let Venmo’s experience be a lesson for other consumer tech innovators: not everything needs to be social.