Chances are strong foreign powers and enemies of the United States are aware of Joe Biden’s closest friends, family, and allies. as well as their friends and family. All they had to do was check Venmo, the peer-to-peer money-sending app. Until Buzzfeed informed the White House that they’d mapped out Biden’s contacts in a matter of minutes using the apps basic search, the information was available to anyone with a smidgen of technical know-how.
This is obviously a huge issue, but let’s game out the possibilities anyway. A map of the President of the United States’ personal contacts, friends and family close enough to send or receive money from him, is a national security nightmare. It puts everyone connected to anyone connect to Biden in real danger of hacking, extortion, or physical harm. These are people who have direct access to Biden as well as people who are connected to those with direct access. In the world of tradecraft, such knowledge is invaluable.
Some would rightly point out that such knowledge isn’t hard to come by and wouldn’t require Venmo. All one has to do is have operatives in the United States following connections on social media, spying on those close to Biden, and building a network map from there. But this is like an easy-button. Even those who do not have the resources to engage in a full connection profile could put together a comprehensive report with a spreadsheet and a Venmo account.
Buzzfeed News discovered this vulnerability and mapped it out themselves. They said it took 10 minutes:
On Friday, following a passing mention in the New York Times that the president had sent his grandchildren money on Venmo, BuzzFeed News searched for the president’s account using only a combination of the app’s built-in search tool and public friends feature. In the process, BuzzFeed News found nearly a dozen Biden family members and mapped out a social web that encompasses not only the first family, but a wide network of people around them, including the president’s children, grandchildren, senior White House officials, and all of their contacts on Venmo.
The president’s transactions are not public, and BuzzFeed News is not identifying the usernames for the accounts mentioned in this story due to national security concerns.
After BuzzFeed News reached out to the White House for this story, all the friends on the president’s Venmo account were removed. A White House spokesperson did not have an immediate comment.
After this story was published, a Venmo spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “The safety 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 ability to make their transactions private and determine their own privacy settings in the app. We’re consistently evolving and strengthening the privacy measures for all Venmo users to continue to provide a safe, secure place to send and spend money.”
This isn’t a sudden and unexpected vulnerability that nobody has ever exploited. It’s been known for a while and was even part of the initial build as a way to draw in more users before the Paypal-owned app became more popular. There’s a reason that many, including me, avoid Venmo like the plague. It’s a privacy and security disaster waiting to happen.
We’re not the only ones who feel this way. The Buzzfeed story continues:
Privacy advocates and journalists have warned about Venmo’s privacy problems for years, yet the PayPal-owned app has persisted with features that can place people — including the president of the United States — at risk.
While many critics have focused on how the app makes all transactions public by default, Venmo’s friend lists are arguably a larger privacy issue. Even if a Venmo account is set to make payments private, its friend list remains exposed. There is no setting to make this information private, which means it can provide a window into someone’s personal life that could be exploited by anyone — including trolls, stalkers, police, and spies.
No other major social network or service has contact-based friend lists that are publicly accessible by default to anyone — and that cannot be made private. People use Venmo to get paid, often using their real names. They often also import their phone contact lists or Facebook friend list — something the app highly encourages when you sign up — creating networks where people are automatically “friended” with dozens if not hundreds of other Venmo users and allowing them to find people they want to pay more easily. Venmo makes it impossible for users to hide their list of friends. To remove someone as a friend, a user has to unfriend the person manually.
Several former Venmo employees told BuzzFeed News that Venmo’s public transaction feed and friend lists were integral to the app’s early design. Launched in 2009 as a simple and free way to transfer money between friends, it relied heavily on the social dynamics pioneered on Facebook. People were unafraid to publicly share that they had paid their friends for pizza after a night out or were splitting a gas bill among their roommates.
The idea, according to one former engineer, is that building off someone’s social network was a much easier way for someone to trust who they were paying or receiving money from. Since then, the app has become one of PayPal’s main drivers of growth, clearing $51 billion in payments during the first three months of 2021.
Few apps exposes its users to the same degree of risk. Thankfully, it isn’t popular enough to be a true threat the way Facebook and Twitter could be if such breaches were as easy. But unlike most social networks, Venmo is a transaction app which means contacts are generally as close to the target as it gets.
Those who are intimately familiar with Venmo can make mincemeat of the “privacy” on the app because it’s not intended to be difficult. They want people to be able to easily find and engage with whoever they seek. An app like this would be useless if it were difficult to find recipients or payers of funds.
Unfortunately, the ease of use also makes it very easy to “hack” without breaking the rules or digging into the source code. And the results of such activities can be very bad if performed by bad actors. According to Buzzfeed:
At a first glance, disclosing connections among people may seem trivial: Who cares if you know whom someone is connected to? But these public connections can be used to expose very private information. Using the public friend list, for example, a motivated fan was able to figure out who won a season of The Bachelor.
Some examples are much more serious. US government agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration have used this feature in criminal cases, such as in the overdose death of rapper Mac Miller.
Using public friend lists and transaction feeds, BuzzFeed News found two members of Congress who were roommates in Washington, DC, as well as reporters who were on friend lists with Trump administration officials, potentially exposing sources. BuzzFeed News also has also spoken with survivors of domestic violence and abuse who suspected that former partners used Venmo to track them and therapists who use Venmo to receive payment from clients who were unaware that their friend lists showed who they were working with.
According to the NY Post, two members of Biden’s extended family had already reportedly been contacted by a person who made multiple requests that they get the president to give the person money.
It’s bad enough that Joe Biden often appears to not have a clue what’s going on around him. Leaving himself vulnerable through Venmo is indicative of a man and an administration who are simply not fit for the responsibilities they carry.
YouTube, Spotify, and other Big Tech platforms are taking Freedom First Network down
It’s no secret we speak our minds and bring on guests who do the same. That’s one of the biggest reasons we put together the Freedom First Network in the first place. There are far too many news outlets, including so-called “conservative” media companies, who are so beholden to Big Tech that they temper their perspectives at best and outright coverup the truth at worst. Many, as you all know, will blatantly lie in order to maintain the narrative that supports the radical agenda taking over much of the United States.
We have had our YouTube channel taken down. Many of our shows have been suppressed or removed by Facebook and Twitter. Spotify banned one of our shows completely from their platform. Google hates us. We’ve even been censored by some of the smaller players like Medium, Transistor, and Captivate. But we stand behind our reporting and perspectives and we refuse to bow down to Big Tech tyranny for the sake of pageviews or video plays.
This isn’t the easiest road to travel, especially for a media company that is so new. We launched Freedom First Network in 2020 to fight against the very censorship that we’re seeing so widespread today. We have found great homes for our content on freer speech platforms like Rumble and we’re putting our best efforts forward into building our presence on Locals. Nevertheless, we cannot do it alone. We need help.
One of the things cofounders Jeff Dornik and JD Rucker agreed to from the start was to never be the pawns of companies that do not embrace our worldview. Finding advertisers and affiliates is easy; we receive requests by companies wanting to be pushed on our shows every day. But it’s important to us that we’re promoting companies, services, and products that are beneficial to maintaining a Freedom First stance in America. As a result, we do not take on sponsors easily. We would rather rely on our own products like Freedom First Coffee and the support of our wonderful viewers, listeners, and readers.
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