Joe Biden and Dr Jill Biden’s Venmo accounts were deleted on Friday after BuzzFeed News said it easily found the U.S. president on the payments app – a finding it said raised national security questions.
The website searched for Biden’s account after he was mentioned in a New York Times report on White House working conditions and practices.
Under the headline “Under Joe Biden’s Folk Attitude, A Short Fuse, and an Obsession with Details,” the Times reported lengthy political debates, outbursts of anger at advisers and officials – and a lot of time spent with it. grandchildren.
“They are known to show their grandparents apps like TikTok,” the story says. “A counselor said he sent money to grandchildren using Venmo.”
The Trump administration has fought unsuccessfully against the popularity of TikTok, a short video sharing app, on its property by a Chinese company, ByteDance.
Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, allows easy payments between contacts. Transactions are public by default. They can be made private but the contact lists remain visible. Biden’s payments were private. BuzzFeed has not published the names of its contacts.
Journalists usually look for leads on Venmo. The scandal that ravaged Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, for example, included reporting on payments to women, allegedly for sex, made by a former business associate.
A recent Daily Beast headline read: “Gaetz Paid Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Venmo’d Teen”. Gaetz denies all of these accusations.
BuzzFeed said it took “less than 10 minutes” to find Biden’s account, “using only a combination of the app’s built-in search tool and public friends function.”
“In the process,” he says, he “found nearly a dozen members of the Biden family and mapped out a social network that encompasses not only the First Family, but a large network of people around them, including the president’s children, grandchildren, senior White House leaders. officials and all their contacts on Venmo. “
The White House did not immediately comment. As of Friday night, BuzzFeed said, the accounts of the president and the first lady had been deleted.
A Venmo spokesperson said, “The security and privacy of all Venmo users and their information is always a top priority, and we take this responsibility very seriously.
“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. “
In a 2018 Guardian report, Christine Bannan, then from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, “Venmo is an unusual application because it combines social media and financial transactions.
“One of these is usually quite public and the other is usually very private, so it’s difficult to gauge consumer expectations for privacy.”
Gennie Gebhart, Acting Director of Activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told BuzzFeed: “Venmo’s privacy failures are already a big problem for everyday people who use Venmo, and that’s the problem. case for years.
“All of these issues are magnified when we talk about a major public figure.”