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Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills

So, there's this woman you know - let's call her Judy - who really gets on your nerves. She's inordinately disorganised and is always borrowing things and forgetting to return them and has this habit of speaking two inches from your face so there's nowhere to escape from her slurry pit breath.

Wouldn't it be great if, rather than merely moaning about her to your friends and family, you could warn society as a whole to give her a wide berth? You would, after all, being doing everyone a favour. Well, if the plans of two businesswomen come off, you'll be able to do just that when an app called Peeple becomes available towards the end of the year.

While once we might have attempted to justify our existence by leaving snarky reviews of restaurants and hotels, with Peeple we'll now be able to do the same to our fellow homo sapiens. That man who double-crossed you; that work colleague who got the promotion you deserved; the string of exes who left you to spend more time with their pandas - none shall escape thy judgment. And Judy. Oh yes, Judy's got it coming to her (for her own good, of course). There are certain provisos though. You must be 21 or over, have an established Facebook account, publish your reviews under your real name and affirm that the object of your critique is known to you personally, professionally or romantically (or ex-romantically). Furthermore, if the person in question has not been reviewed on Peeple previously, you must supply their mobile number.

'As two empathetic, female entrepreneurs in the tech space, we want to spread love and positivity,' Peeple co-founder Julia Cordray explained to Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post. This view is somewhat undermined by her co-founder, Nicole McCullough, who added that she 'wanted something to help her decide whom to trust with her kids'.

Any positive ratings get posted on Peeple immediately while negative ones are quarantined for 48 hours to allow time for them to be challenged. However, it apparently won't be possible to delete bad or downright partisan reviews once posted. 'What could possibly go wrong?' he asked, to the accompaniment of ten thousand libel lawyers licking their lips.

I can't help thinking that society functions largely because most of the time we are blissfully unaware of what others think of us. And even if you were to leave only positive reviews, that still amounts to an invasion of other people's privacy. In a world where there is precious little private space anyway, we can ill afford to lose any more.

Happily, there is a chance that none of this shall come to pass. As Kim LaCapria points out on the myth-busting website Snopes, despite all the media coverage there is 'virtually no independent verification of the app's actual existence', so the whole thing could be an elaborate hoax. If it does go live, however, the words, 'Judge not lest ye be judged,' might never have seemed more wise.