Peeple, if you haven’t heard of it yet, is – or rather, is intended to be – an iPhone app along the lines of Yelp. Except that instead of rating businesses, one rates other people. And shortly after Peeple was announced, the internet exploded; not just because of the nature of the app itself, mind, which is bad enough. No, the outrage really began when – as The Washington Post reported – folks realized that Peeple allows others to create a profile for you without your permission, including posting photos of you.
But wait. It gets even worse, if you can believe that.
Here’s how it works. If you want to create a Peeple account for somebody, all that you need is their cell phone number (and never mind that there’s no way to even check if the number belongs to them.) Once the account is set up, they will start getting text messages – which they didn’t ask to receive – when they get new “reviews” on their Peeple profile.
Here’s the kicker: even putting all of that aside, if you want to respond to the reviews or report someone for harassment, you have to “verify” your account. Essentially, Peeple is blackmailing the victims of harassment. And no, there is no way to “opt-out” or delete a Peeple profile.
The creators of Peeple, Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough, are just fine with this.
And while the pair have been deleting Facebook posts and tweets all night, the internet doesn’t forget.
Even Peeple’s official site is full of passive-aggressive cheerfulness, vigorously denying the mere idea that humans might not be nice to one another.
“We love you enough to bring you this gift.”
Quite honestly, if you love me enough to give the gift of unwanted, unasked-for and invasive harassment and abuse, I’d hate to see what it is you give the people closest to you. And in point of fact, reports are already coming in of Peeple-based harassment, months before the app is even set to launch. The harassment and abuse mobs on Twitter know exactly what a boon this app will be to them.
The whole Peeple concept drips with a certain Stranger Danger, nanny-state vibe; perhaps appropriate, considering that one creator is a mother who wants a way to decide how safe everyone around her is for her children.
Of course, whether or not they thought that internet harassment existed before Wednesday night, the creators of Peeple certainly do now – and they’re also not handling it very well. Deleting questions and negative comments from their Facebook page, retreating behind a private account on Twitter and passively threatening people asking questions with them with consequences on Peeple itself.
The #Peeple hashtag is presently trending across Twitter. And sure, it’s not all bad. Unfortunately for Peeple, the positive tweets are all coming from noted figures in harassment groups.
Meanwhile, Peeple is already trying to have Twitter bring down a parody account – it’s almost as if they don’t think anyone should have a right to use their name and image without their consent.
Of course, none of this takes legal questions into account – Peeple is registered in Alberta, Canada, and Canada’s anti-spam legislation likely applies to their unsolicited text messages. Nor does it address the marginalized groups that Peeple would make truly vulnerable.
You see, here’s the final cherry on the cake. Not only can you be signed up to Peeple without your consent under your real name and pictures, using Peeple requires a valid Facebook account… which also means, owing to Facebook’s policies, using your real name. Of course, Facebook offers little features like privacy controls and the ability to remove posts from your own timeline.
Peeple, on the other hand, allows you no moderation over anyone else’s comments on you; and as PC Authority alludes to, it’s a literal nightmare for LGBTQ people. If any prospective employer, neighbor, stalker, ex, family member, or anyone else can look up a closeted LGBTQ person in a space they have no control over, it will destroy lives. Make no mistake. Statistically-speaking, both of those people in Peeple’s header image have things they’d prefer remain private, both to each other and the rest of the world. If Peeple is released, it’s likely neither of them will be allowed privacy anymore.
If Peeple is allowed to release and remains unchallenged by authorities, brace yourselves for a dystopian nightmare of unrivaled proportions. I don’t think I’m over-egging it to call Peeple the most dangerous app concept of this decade.
Update: As of about 1 p.m. EST, the #Peeple hashtag has been used a little over 46,000 times on Twitter to express an opinion of the app.
I would therefore like to reach out to the creators of Peeple and invite them, in their words, to reach out and “work it out” with those folks within 48 hours. I’m sure it won’t impose too much difficulty on them.
More interestingly, though, I attempted to retrieve those quotes from their website and found that it had gone offline. Have they been DDOSed? Did they take it offline themselves? Or has their ISP/host taken down their website?
Update no. 2: Half an hour later, mentions of #Peeple have jumped by almost 30,000 to 73,700, according to Twitter’s Trends sidebar.
More to come as this story develops.
[Screenshots by Don Crothers/The Inquisitr]