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Peeple Is for Employers, Not People

The reputation economy is coming, and it's terrifying.
Image: Flickr/Glen3095

Peeple is an app that lets users rate and review anybody they come across, even if they haven't signed up for the service themselves. It won't be released until November, but the internet is already freaking out about the privacy implications of a profile that you didn't create or consent to existing on an app that you don't use. Others revile the idea of a society of mutual spies.

All of these concerns are valid and concerning, but they miss the point. Because Peeple isn't for people, in the "Average Joe or Jane" sense, to use. Peeple is for employers to pick out who their best prospects are.

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Consider the context from which Peeple emerged. Peeple's CEO and co-founder, Julia Cordray, is also current the CEO of 96 Talents and Career Fox, two companies specializing in software to help employers find top talent. On Cordray's public LinkedIn page, where she describes her involvement with Peeple, she says the app "allows us to better choose who we hire" and "do business with."

If you thought that the worst thing about Peeple was that it would make your life more stressful for purely social reasons, you're mistaken

If you thought that the worst thing about Peeple was that it would make your life more stressful for purely social reasons, you're mistaken—Peeple is a vehicle for self-policing with the goal of becoming the ideal job candidate. That feeling of hesitation when you consider uploading a photo from a sloppy night out to Facebook, lest your employer see? In the world of apps like Peeple, that's now real life.

As law blogger Popehat put it today in a post, "Let's see how helpful three-out-of-five star reviews are to your professional reputation." Someone you had coffee with once thought you were impulsive and confrontational, and left you a middling review? A potential employer might choose the candidate with reviews extolling their kindness and enthusiasm.

This isn't to say that people should feel okay about acting terribly; but Peeple's raison d'etre was never to make people better, even in some incredibly misguided way. It's to make people better hires.

Peeple is hardly the first expression of the "reputation economy"—where ratings and reviews are applied to individuals, and follow us across social platforms and affect our real lives. Lulu, Klout, hell, even Uber, all represent some aspect of this vision. Peeple is merely the first app to tie it all together.

Whether Peeple actually gets off the ground or not is incidental. At long last, we feel it coming on: a society where every (potentially unconscious) physical act can directly affect our prospects in the labour market, and must be subject to constant scrutiny and revision. We prime our bodies—how they move and act in the world—so they can later create value for our bosses.

It's terrifying.