If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the past 24 hours, chances are you’ve heard about an up and coming new phone app called Peeple. It’s a service that describes itself as “Yelp for people,” and it allows you to create profiles for everyone you know and give them reviews and star-ratings without their consent.
The app is horrifyingly simple to use. As long as you’re at least 21 years old, have a phone number, and have been on Facebook for more than six months, you can sign up for an account. Once you’re registered, you can use phone numbers to create profiles for anyone you know, post reviews of their character, describe positive and negative interactions, and give them a rating between one and five stars for how good of a person they are.
Only positive reviews will show on your profile until you sign up and claim it, but the idea that anyone can use your personal information to create one for you in the first place is pretty troubling. Also troubling is the fact that people can say pretty much anything they want about you. If they leave a biased, negative review, you can dispute it via private message or by leaving a comment of your own on the review, but there’s no way to delete anything.
Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough, the creators of Peeple, don’t seem to comprehend what an awful idea this is. They’ve referred to it as a “positivity service” and claim it will help individuals boost their networking potential. McCullough even told The Washington Post that “as a mother of two in an era when people don’t always know their neighbors, she wanted something to help her decide whom to trust with her kids.” Never mind that anyone who signs up and writes something like “Jim is a child abuser” will get sued for libel faster than they can hit “send.”
Since news of the app broke, the internet has had a field day pointing out its many flaws. Some have said it makes it impossible to ever outrun a less than stellar interaction or a mistake you made years ago. Others have also noted that it gives abusers, stalkers, and those with personal vendettas a way to not only gain access to your life, but also to poison your future interactions. Pretty much everyone stands in agreement that Peeple is a terrible idea.
Oddly enough, Peeple’s creators are incredibly uncomfortable with all the criticism. They’ve been scrambling for ways to shut down the “unsolicited” negative commentary.
Cordray and McCullough can try to spin it any way they want to, but the bottom line is that human beings are not restaurants, and an app that allows us to treat people like products serves no one. It’s not going to protect your kids or help you network. It’s a dangerous game of “he said/she said” about the characters of actual human beings that plays out in public and can never be deleted. It’s a tool for bullies, an invasion of privacy, and it caters to very worst parts of human nature. In a word, Peeple is bullshit. Zero stars.
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