A few days ago a highly controversial people rating app has been launched. The two Canadian founders delayed the launch after a massive Internet backlash. They have spent 4 months reviewing the Peeple app and make it more attractive. Even so, the app is still raising concerns with some features, settings, and rules. Reading the terms and conditions makes one believe the internet has gone too far. Not only is our privacy endangered, but identity theft, damage to online reputation and cyberbullying have found a flourishing environment to prosper.
In times when anti-cyberbullying measures are common practice in most educational establishments, it’s best to believe digital citizens will protect the web citadel and act rationale enough to just ignore this “positive app”. According to the press release announcing the launch, users will be able to ”look up anyone based on name, location, interests, and keywords”
In case you are still not convinced this app might harm your online identity and reputation, here are some severe reasons to stay away from it:
The app is trying to transform recommendations into a currency “to get better job opportunities, better dates, growing relationships, and networking opportunities.” The main concern here is privacy. Once on the app, users will not be able to control most of the content. They can choose what they share but Peeple will not remove content. Individuals have the legal right to control who uses their names and likenesses for commercial purposes. At Peeple, all the data provided will be sold, probably to the highest bidder. The difference between this app and any other social network is that the individual being profiled is actively denied the choice whether to participate. The terms and conditions are clear:
(5) You understand and agree that once Content is published it may not be able to be removed. By submitting Content to Peeple you acknowledge its intended use and publication on the Application and through the Services, and correspondingly you hereby irrevocably grant to Peeple the continuous, non-exclusive, royalty-free right to use your Content for any purpose whatsoever and in any format. These rights shall be assignable, transferable, and licensable by Peeple.
Including real names, phone number and more.
(4) In order to access and use the Services you are required to create a user account which must be in your real name and include certain other information about you including but not necessarily limited to, Facebook account information and cellular phone number. All information provided by you shall be complete and accurate.
And that’s not all! In the launch announcement, the company is detailing about a paid option that will allow users to see “everything that has been written about a person whether it was published live on their profile or not. This allows you to make better decisions about the people around you by getting access to all the recommendations written.”
Another controversy resides in the ethical acceptance of humans being ranked and metrically assessed by other individuals. Before questioning the legitimacy of the experience based on which people are ranked, one must recognize such a system. Also, there is a rather thick line between the public and private sphere of an individual. The idea that people can be rated just like business’s on Yelp is wrong. People cannot be forced into the public sphere without their consent.
Everyone on the internet may create an account impersonating anyone. The first concern is the impossibility to denounce abuses since one will not know if a profile was made in his/her name. Disturbingly, one ‘option’ to avoid this is to download the app and make sure nobody else is creating a profile in your name. An unconsented strife situation for the sake of online reputation…
Bullying and harassment
To stop a recommendation from appearing on the profile, users must first read it. This means that even if it’s not made public, one will be forced to go through hateful and abusive messages before being able to block them. Abused women and any victim of harassment must understand how intrusive this feature is, especially knowing the recommendations are not anonymous. Not all Internet users might find the strength to go through hateful comments or bullying attempts and just ignore them.
How will they stop harassment and abuses if: (5)You acknowledge that Peeple makes and has made no representations on, to the accuracy, integrity, quality or appropriateness of any Content published on the Application or through the Services, nor does Peeple have any obligation to review, screen, monitor or approve any Content.
Only for Canada?
According to the terms and conditions, the app is designed only for people residing in Canada. Even so, you can download the app from the US App Store and can create an account from anywhere in the world. There is no verification of residency and just means a violation of the company’s own terms and conditions.
How people see “Peeple”
The Internet is watching. Twitter and Facebook Pages against the Peeple App have been already created and the App Store reviews speak for themselves:
And the irony: Julia Cordray does not like unsolicited feedback…