Peeple: “Yelp for People” App is Coming Whether We Want it To or Not
In this day and age, we can rate pretty much anything we want online. Did you get food poisoning from the new takeout place down the street? Take your complaints to Yelp. Did you have a college professor that really changed your life? Leave a glowing review on RateMyProfessor. Did you stay at a hotel recently that was pretty good but could make some improvements? Maybe give it a four-star rating on TripAdvisor. Until now, online reviews have mostly been about services–whether they be food, lodging, or education. But starting in November, a new app, Peeple, will let you rank the people in your life, taking online reviewing to a whole new level.
Peeple, which is marketing itself as the “Yelp for people” is set to launch in November as a mobile app. It will allow individuals to leave ratings for each other both in the form of both comments and numerically–you can give someone between one and five stars. The founders are pushing it as a positive invention that will reward people for their good behavior and character. They’ve also promised that they will attempt to keep bullying and harassment off the site. Anonymous reviews won’t be allowed, as reviewers will be required to have a Facebook account that has been active for at least six months, and verify a cell phone number before posting. Those are all good goals, but there are also some serious possible flaws in this venture that have the potential to make it downright horrible.
First of all, anyone can rate anyone–friends, neighbors, casual acquaintances, whoever. But there’s no way to opt out of Peeple. It doesn’t matter if someone is signed up for the app or not, you can leave a review about him. There’s no way for the recipient to delete the review, unless it violates the Terms and Conditions of the app. According to the site’s founders, only positive reviews will show up for people who are not members. But that’s still concerning, especially because exactly what constitutes a negative rule is unclear. As the Verge puts it:
It’s also not clear whether negative reviews are judged to be so based only on the star rating or whether the actual content is also taken into account. If just the former, it means that users could give people extremely negative reviews but a good star rating, with the targets of these write-ups never knowing about them unless they signed up.
So, essentially, if you’re not signed up for the app, people could leave reviews about you that you never know about, as long as they are considered by the app to be “positive.” That’s concerning on a few different levels, and some worst case scenarios quickly spring to mind. Imagine a woman who has run away from an abusive relationship receiving a “positive” review from a neighbor. Her abuser could be able to find her from that information. Or what if an individual decides to out someone who is still in the closet. That could be a positive review, to be sure, but also incredibly damaging to someone who isn’t ready to come out to their friends and family. While these types of abhorrent behavior are of course possible without the app, Peeple has the potential to make them way easier and more visible.
For people who sign up for the app, negative reviews will be allowed, but submitted to a 48-hour review period, in which the recipient of the negative review will have time to look it over and contest it. The app’s website explains:
It goes into your inbox on the app, you will be notified, and now you have 48 hours timer to work it out with the user. If you cannot turn a negative into a positive the comment will go live and then you can publicly defend yourself.
That’s a horrifying premise as well–the app is basically encouraging users to confront people who don’t like them and convince them to change the review. If someone is going to publicly leave a negative review of an individual on an app dedicated to rating people, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess they’re not going to back down easily. This seems to be fodder for a lot of nasty fights.
The public reaction to Peeple has been relatively negative, with a lot of observers citing privacy and ethics concerns:
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) October 1, 2015
#Peeple: Because everyday life should be a horrifying minefield.
— Mike Drucker (@MikeDrucker) October 1, 2015
“All that matters is what people say about us,” say the #peeple founders. That is literally the opposite of what we try to teach children.
— Robert Perry (Pez) (@pez_sez) October 1, 2015
Given all the negative feedback, we’ll have to wait and see how well it ends up doing in the app marketplace.