News

This Uber-style ‘people-reviewing’ app is the worst thing ever

Everyone's got an opinion these days and there are no shortage of places to get them published.

Bought something on ebay? Rate the seller. Bought a product on Amazon? Rate the product. Taken a trip with Uber? Rate the driver (and they can rate you too). Stayed in a hotel? Rate the hotel on TripAdvisor.

So you'd think it's only natural to extend that process to rating actual people, wouldn't you? Nicole McCullough and Julia Cordray, co-founders of a new 'Yelp for humans' app Peeple launching this November, certainly seem to think so. 

“People do so much research when they buy a car or make those kinds of decisions,” said Cordray. “Why not do the same kind of research on other aspects of your life.”

She sees no reason why you wouldn't want to "showcase your character" online, while Nicole says that, in an era when you don't always know your neighbours, she wanted something to help her know who to trust with her children.

When the app is launched, you'll be able to review people you encounter in either a personal, professional or romantic capacity and give them a rating between one and five stars. And you can't opt out. Once someone puts you into the system, you stay there as an inanimate object unless you violate the terms of service. And you can't contest bad reviews - though you can report something 'inaccurate'. Every time you meet someone, you could be judged and your behaviour uploaded and rated.

There are some other requirements: you must be over 21 and have an established Facebook account - and reviews will go under your own name - no anonymous Twitter-style shouting.

On one hand, this is an entirely logical next step for the online culture of reviewing and feeding back to help improve standards. There's surely no doubt that hotels have upped their game with the advent of TripAdvisor - a few bad reviews and your online bookings are going to take a serious hit - but this is altogether more nefarious, though Cordray claims that, in the same way these services can deploy feedback to up standards, “You can really use it to your advantage.”

There appears to be no thought given to the ideas of consent, accuracy and the golden opportunity for bullying and shaming. More to the point, how the hell do you rate a person as a whole? It's pretty well understood what a decent hotel room is supposed to be like, or how a good driver should conduct themselves, but how can you give a score to a human just being themselves? And what if you're having an off-day? Well, that'll be 1 out of 5: "unacceptable and in need of immediate improvement."

Others have already raised the concerns over what this could do to vulnerable people who suffer an unfair bad 'review', whilst it could make everyone suspicious that they are being judged and scored every time they meet someone new.

What's most worrying is that the market seems to think this has potential: the duo are currently talking to venture capitalists and investors, with the company's shares valued at $7.6m.

Perhaps there's nothing we can do. It's the logical endpoint to everything that's already happening. Technology marches on, and clearly we're headed for a dystopian Big Brother-style world, without even the need for Big Brother itself - we'll all simply walk round judging each other and then racking up scores on our smartphones. Those scoring under 2? Well, no one will ever talk to you or trust you again.

Good luck guys, remember to smile when you meet someone new!