2 Scopus citations


Mobile payment apps are seeing explosive usage worldwide. This paper focuses on Venmo, a very popular mobile person-to-person (P2P) payment service owned by Paypal. Venmo allows money transfers between users with a mandatory transaction note. More than half of transaction records in Venmo are public information. In this paper, we propose a Multi-Layer Location Inference (MLLI) technique to infer user locations from public transaction records in Venmo. MLLI explores two observations. First, many Venmo transaction notes contain implicit location cues. Second, the types and temporal patterns of user transactions have strong ties to their location closeness. With a large dataset of 2.12M users and 20.23M Venmo transaction records, we show that MLLI can identify the top-1, top-3, and top-5 possible locations for a Venmo user with accuracy up to 50%, 80%, and 90%, respectively. Our results highlight the danger of sharing transaction notes on Venmo or similar mobile payment apps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalIEEE Internet of Things Journal
StateAccepted/In press - Jun 5 2018



  • Electronic mail
  • Explosives
  • Facebook
  • Internet of Things
  • location inference.
  • Mobile payment
  • Privacy
  • privacy
  • security
  • Text mining
  • Urban areas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Signal Processing
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications

Cite this