Have you ever wondered, if you were a product, what kind of review people might give you? Speculate no longer; an app is on the way that will allow them to do just that. Peeple, or “Yelp for human beings”, is already valued at $7.6 million; currently undergoing beta testing, it is expected to launch some time in November.
Co-creators Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough describe Peeple as “a positivity app for positive people.” Cordray, who has a background in marketing and recruitment, sees Peeple as a means to “showcase your character, and mother of two McCullough believes it has value when it comes to deciding whom she can trust with her children.
“The Peeple app allows us to better choose who we hire, do business with, date, become our neighbours, roommates, landlords/tenants, and teach our children,” states the official site. “There are endless reasons as to why we would want this reference check for the people around us.”
Positive reviews are published immediately to Peeple, while negative reviews are sent to the individual being rated, giving them a 48 hour window in which to respond. “If you cannot turn a negative into a positive the comment will go live and then you can publicly defend yourself,” says the site.
The problem here, of course, is that Cordray and McCullough are relying on everybody to be honest and magnanimous in their use of the app, instead of leveraging it to their own petty or malicious ends. And if there’s one thing we know about social media, it’s that whenever we see a new platform emerge, bullying and harassment aren’t far behind.
This danger is compounded by the fact that there is no ‘opt-out’; once somebody has rated you on Peeple, it’s there forever, or at least until they delete their account or are found to be in violation of the terms of service. How, then, is a Peeple rating expected to carry any weight at all?
Most coverage of the app so far focuses on these practical issues. Richard Chirgwin at The Register calls it “slander-as-a-service” and “the most odious idea” of 2015, while The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey has a whole array of concerns: “Unfortunately for the millions of people who could soon find themselves the unwilling subjects —make the objects — of Cordray’s app, her thoughts do not appear to have shed light on certain very critical issues, such as consent and bias and accuracy and the fundamental wrongness of assigning a number value to a person.”
It’s easy enough to see where Cordray and McCullough are coming from; Peeple was clearly conceived as a means of gaging trust, and perhaps as an incentive for users to be kinder in their day-to-day interactions. Sadly, at present, Peeple simply offers too many opportunities for abuse for it to ever be taken seriously as a platform.
Thanks to Lisa Ilander for sharing John Oliver’s unique take in the app: