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.
‘The Purge’ by Big Tech targets conservatives, including us
Just when we thought the Covid-19 lockdowns were ending and our ability to stay afloat was improving, censorship reared its ugly head.
For the last few months, NOQ Report, Conservative Playbook, and the American Conservative Movement have appealed to our readers for assistance in staying afloat through Covid-19 lockdowns. The downturn in the economy has limited our ability to generate proper ad revenue just as our traffic was skyrocketing. We had our first sustained stretch of three months with over a million visitors in November, December, and January, but February saw a dip.
It wasn’t just the shortened month. We expected that. We also expected the continuation of dropping traffic from “woke” Big Tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but it has actually been much worse than anticipated. Our Twitter account was banned. Both of our YouTube accounts were banned. Facebook “fact-checks” everything we post. Spotify canceled us. Medium canceled us. Apple canceled us. Why? Because we believe in the truth prevailing, and that means we will continue to discuss “taboo” topics.
The 2020 presidential election was stolen. You can’t say that on Big Tech platforms without risking cancellation, but we’d rather get cancelled for telling the truth rather than staying around to repeat mainstream media’s lies. They have been covering it up since before the election and they’ve convinced the vast majority of conservative news outlets that they will be harmed if they continue to discuss voter fraud. We refuse to back down. The truth is the truth.
The lies associated with Covid-19 are only slightly more prevalent than the suppression of valid scientific information that runs counter to the prescribed narrative. We should be allowed to ask questions about the vaccines, for example, as there is ample evidence for concern. One does not have to be an “anti-vaxxer” in order to want answers about vaccines that are still considered experimental and that have a track record in a short period of time of having side-effects, including death. One of our stories about the Johnson & Johnson “vaccine” causing blood clots was “fact-checked” and removed one day before the government hit the brakes on it. These questions and news items are not allowed on Big Tech which is just another reason we are getting canceled.
There are more topics that they refuse to allow. In turn, we refuse to stop discussing them. This is why we desperately need your help. The best way NOQ, CP, and ACM readers can help is to donate. Our Giving Fuel page makes it easy to donate one-time or monthly. Alternatively, you can donate through PayPal as well. We are on track to be short by about $4100 per month in order to maintain operations.
The second way to help is to become a partner. We’ve strongly considered seeking angel investors in the past but because we were paying the bills, it didn’t seem necessary. Now, we’re struggling to pay the bills. We had 5,657,724 sessions on our website from November, 2020, through February, 2021. Our intention is to elevate that to higher levels this year by focusing on a strategy that relies on free speech rather than being beholden to progressive Big Tech companies.
During that four-month stretch, Twitter and Facebook accounted for about 20% of our traffic. We are actively working on operating as if that traffic is zero, replacing it with platforms that operate more freely such as Gab, Parler, and others. While we were never as dependent on Big Tech as most conservative sites, we’d like to be completely free from them. That doesn’t mean we will block them, but we refuse to be beholden to companies that absolutely despise us simply because of our political ideology.
We’re heading in the right direction and we believe we’re ready talk to patriotic investors who want to not only “get in on the action” but more importantly who want to help America hear the truth. Interested investors should contact me directly with the contact button above.
As the world spirals towards radical progressivism, the need for truthful journalism has never been greater. But in these times, we need as many conservative media voices as possible. Please help keep NOQ Report going.