Peeple: The Messed Up App That Lets You Rate Humans Publicly, Without Consent

By Gerald Lynch on at

We're used to giving ratings out of five to Netflix films, or as part of app or restaurant reviews. But giving them to humans? That's more than just creepy, it's messed up. And that's exactly what a new app called Peeple allows you to do.

Expected to launch in November, Peeple lets you assign a one-to-five star rating to basically anyone in the world, be that your boss, an old flame, even family members.

The idea in itself is concerning – assigning a numerical value to an individual person (as opposed to a service or company) could be hugely distressing for the person being scrutinised. But what's particularly worrying about Peeple is that it's not an opt-in application – anyone can add someone aged over 21 to the Peeple database provided they have the person's phone number, and there's nothing you can do about it. You're just out there to be scrutinised by the web.

Co-founders Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough believe they've set up measures to defend against people-shaming and trolling. Those submitting reviews must have a valid Facebook account, and must leave reviews using their real name, removing the ability to have an anonymous dig at someone. You're then asked to announce your relationship with the person being reviewed (personal, professional or romantic), while a negative review is sent to a registered subject's private inbox for 48 hours so that it can be disputed. Those who have been reviewed but have not personally signed up to Peeple will only have positive reviews shown on their public profiles.

"Peeple will enhance your online reputation for access to better quality networks, top job opportunities, and promote more informed decision making about people," reads a line on the company website.

However, even taking away the potential value of a five star trustworthiness rating (say, when hiring a babysitter), Peeple will be subject to so many individual, granular biases that a Peeple rating could never be a solid reflection of the character of a person. As anyone who wades through 1-star or 5-star Yelp reviews can attest to, those taking the time to leave a review are usually only ever the most passionate of people, whether positively or negatively so. And there's not much room for interpretation to those presented with a one or five star review.

Even in the case of being unexpectedly awarded a five star rating, there's something dehumanising about the act. We're humans, not products, changeable beings subject to good and bad days, with an infinite depth or experience and potential, living lives that I'm sure we never intended to be up for review. Whether I were to receive a good or bad Peeple rating, I wouldn't want my entire existence to be summed up by a five star rating. [Washington Post]

Update: Peeple's Facebook page has acknowledged the crticism the idea has been met with, leaving a comment that states "You want the option to opt in or opt out [...] You don't want the ability for users to start your profiles even if you would only get positive reviews if they did (Our app does not allow negative reviews for unclaimed profiles)." Hopefully that means that, come the app's eventual launch, individuals will have more protection against how they are presented on the database.