You may or may not have heard about the upcoming social application called "Peeple." This app, as the name implies, allows you to "peep" on individual people. It is nothing like Facebook, where you must first know a person’s name and add them as a friend before you can engage with them in meaningful ways. Peeple is more like the restaurant review site Yelp or the infamous Rate My Professor. For all intents and purposes, this is a site in which you can rate and review people you know, and it’s terrifying.
I must first digress: The Internet truly has changed society. Social networks have made staying in touch easier than ever, and the breadth of information available online has changed education in ways we could have never imagined 50 years ago. What some people may not realize is that the propagation of the Internet has begun to change the nature of its contents.
Before Facebook, YouTube and even MySpace, the Internet was just a humble niche for the few people adept at computers instead of being the communication hub it is today. The small communities created in the early days of the Internet established conversational conventions which still hold up today. For example, usernames and pseudonyms made communicating easier, and anonymity was guaranteed for all.
Today, however, anonymity is slowly being chipped away. This is not because of some government conspiracy or complicated new law; users are simply more willing to enter their personal information into any of their dozens of accounts and profiles. There’s nothing inherently wrong with displaying this information, but doing so demonstrates how much technology itself has become integrated into our everyday lives.
On the subject of Peeple, it’s clear why a rating site for people will be a disaster. If you can’t already see how it will be humiliating and dehumanizing to everyone involved, consider this: People won’t have any say on whether or not they will have an account on the site. If you were one of the lucky few able to maintain Internet anonymity before now, consider it gone.
The creators of Peeple have given users the power to create profiles for individuals who have potentially never even heard of the site so they can be rated and reviewed like everyone else. All a person needs is a name and a cell phone number to create an account for someone they know and start giving out ratings.
Users are encouraged to rate people through a traditional 5-star system, with one star being awful and five stars being excellent. The site has zero preventative measures to protect one’s character, as all reviews are permanent and cannot be taken down.
Imagine how this application could be used to ruin people’s lives. Spiteful exes or crazy stalkers will have full power to put practically un-erasable statements about you on the Internet. This could happen on any other blog or forum, but with a site like Peeple, thousands of others will see the slander and potentially form misguided opinions about their coworkers, neighbors and even family members over information that should not have been publicized.
By no means should you try to scrub your presence from the Internet and go into hiding at this news. Peeple is looking like it’s been set up to fail, as others have started to notice its utter disregard of any negative implications it may cause in friendships and relationships. The site is set to launch before the end of 2015, so do yourself a favor and stay far away. With any luck, the app will be shunned just like Google Plus before it.