Does Peeple Know Your Phone Number? Probably Not, But The Answer Isn't Exactly Clear
The Internet has spoken, and everyone on it absolutely hates the idea of Peeple, the "Yelp for people" that is supposedly launching in November by founders Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough. However, everyone also still has a lot of questions about it — like, for example this one: Does Peeple know your phone number? Well... it's not exactly a simple answer, but in response to last week's outcry, the founders are apparently working on changing how the app works. Although there aren't a ton of details available right now, hopefully these changes will also revisit the phone number issue.
Peeple, which will allow Internet users to rate and review other people — whether they're also Internet users or not — made waves after its announcement last week, largely because of its two most "revolutionary" features: The inability for users of the app to opt out of getting "feedback" (the original idea was that anyone could start a reviews page on your behalf; all they needed was your cell number to confirm it) and the ability for users to make negative reviews of people. These features are alarming for a number of reasons, one of which is the whole phone number thing. Based on the fact that Peeple will seemingly let people create pages for others just by entering that person's cell phone number, some people were worried that the app might somehow collect the phone numbers of everyone in the world.
I'll be honest: How two people without any history in app development expect to release a wildly ambitious app in the next month remains unclear to me. I'm also a little concerned about app's founders' response to the negative feedback. In a LinkedIn post about it, Cordray insists that Peeple has always been intended to be a positive-only app:
Except, there is one thing I must tell you; this has always been a positivity app.
Peeple will not be a tool to tell other humans how horrible they are. Actually, it’s the exact opposite.
Peeple is a POSITIVE ONLY APP. We want to bring positivity and kindness to the world.
Cordray also told VICE Motherboard that she expects reviews of herself on Peeple to be largely positive. "There is so much to celebrate about the way I have shown up in this world for the people that know me," said Cordray, "and once people see just how kind, thoughtful, generous, and a leader I have been I will naturally have more abundance due to this app." Except that, well, it contradicts her own past words on the subject, according to Snopes, who quotes Cordray as saying the following just a month ago:
I think we are going to have more positive than negative, but you can’t please everybody so … I think it’s important to know the negative too. I wouldn’t want this app to just be positive. We want to know ‘did he steal from you? Did she steal from you? Were they abusive? Um … do they have anger issues? Do they lie all the time? Are they narcissistic?’ I mean, these are the things that are more valuable in knowing versus little egocentric things. We don’t live in a fairytale land. This isn’t candyland where we just want to know the best in everybody. I think this app does really help to know and find the best in each of us and the good in each of us, but it would be pointless if it was all positive.
The discrepency is... odd. And this and other red flags that don't exactly line up have a number of people suspecting that Peeple might be a hoax, although for me, it suggests that it's just the result of what happens when two people try to launch a project without really understanding how it's all going to work.
So: Back to the phone number thing. How, exactly, were they planning on making that part of it work? It's tough to say, because Cordray and McCullough haven't actually released any technical information about it yet. I'm guessing, though, that the app in its previous incarnation — the one that drew so much ire last week — confirmed your identity as the owner of the cell phone number by sending you a text message asking you to confirm it. (Why they expected anyone to say "Yes, that is my phone number, please let a torrent of random people publicly criticize me now" is another story.) But maybe not; again, we don't actually know, and we don't know whether or not Peeple was actually meant to store the numbers it collected. Furthermore, as Ars Technica reports, Peeple's Twitter feed and Facebook page seemingly shut down in the aftermath of last week's hullabaloo, so in some ways, we know even less now than we previously did.
Cordray's LinkedIn post explains that, with the changes they now have in store for the app, there will be "no way to even make negative comments. Simply stated, if you don't explicitly say 'approve recommendation,' it will not be visible on our platform." Still, though — at this point, I don't really know what to believe.
I'm sorry that I can't write about this app in a positive way. God knows there need to be more female tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. But the cynicism — and seeming dishonesty — on display here is truly, truly breathtaking.