Why You Shouldn't Use PayPal to Send Twitter 'Tips'

Why You Shouldn’t Use PayPal to Send Twitter ‘Tips’


What mess. No sooner had Twitter unveiled its new Tip Jar feature—which allows anyone using the app in English (at least, during the rollout) to send cash to a small handful of Twitter users whose work they’d like to support—than users uncovered major privacy flaws.

While I’d normally take this time to complain about how slow feature rollouts are annoying, I’m actually grateful Twitter isn’t letting everyone set up their own tip jars right now. There are a handful of problems with the feature connected with using PayPal to fund these tips—one of the many payment options available—and they’re worth knowing about before you accidentally, say, send your home address to some random person on the internet.

This potentially disastrous risk to your personal privacy was first uncovered by security researcher Rachel Tobac, who shared her findings (where else?) in a Tweet:

While Twitter plans to take additional actions to let users know that their personal data might be shared as part of the tipping process, this entire problem is really more PayPal’s issue to solve. On that, I haven’t heard a peep.

As more people started to dig into PayPal-based tips, a few more privacy peculiarities emerged. For example, if you set up a tip jar and link it to PayPal, but don’t have a PayPal nickname, everyone initiating a tip (no, they don’t have to actually complete the transaction) will be able to see the email address you’ve linked to PayPal. If that’s your personal email address that you’d prefer to not have out in the wild, well, tough luck. Better get that nickname set up ASAP.

We’re not done yet. If you take a closer look at Rachel’s tweet from above, you’ll notice that PayPal is taking a fee as part of the tip transaction:

That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has used PayPal to send money, well, ever. But there’s a curious interplay between fees and privacy that you need to know about, too, if you’re planning to tip someone for their Twitter work.

My advice? Don’t use PayPal for these transactions at all. If you must tip someone on Twitter—a practice I wholeheartedly encourage if you find value in their work or witticisms—fund it via another service entirely. You can currently pick from Bandcamp, Cash App, Patreon, and Venmo, which should be more than sufficient for the occasional random donation. Keep PayPal for when information like your address actually matters (eBay). Don’t give all of Twitter access to that information, not at any cost.

 





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