Cold Hard E-Cash: Friends and Vendors in the Venmo Digital Payments System

Xinyi Zhang
Shiliang Tang
Yun Zhao
Gang Wang
Haitao Zheng
Ben Y. Zhao

Proc. of the 17th International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM 2017)

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Paper Abstract

For millions around the globe, digital payment apps such as Venmo are replacing cash as the preferred method of payment between friends and vendors. Apps like Venmo bring a unique blend of convenience and social interactions into financial transactions. In this paper, we study the role of social relationships in the adoption of the Venmo digital payment system. We collect records of all 91 million public transactions conducted on Venmo since its introduction, a social graph connecting most of its 10.5 million users, and analyze the interplay between social relationships and financial transactions. We find that Venmo communities are very densely connected compared to other interaction networks, and often driven by specific niche applications of Venmo. While some niche communities (rent, utilities, sports betting) exhibit periodic or ephemeral properties, others are more indicative of real world social circles. Finally, we find that Venmo's reliance on Facebook for authentication opens users to potential privacy attacks.