A new app that lets you write reviews of other people has a lot of folks worried about online bullying, invasion of privacy and defamation. But at least some aspects of the app might feel familiar, according to the app's CEO. 

Peeple, which launched last week, allows you to rate people's personal or romantic characteristics--but it also lets you comment on their professional skills or expertise, similar to LinkedIn, says Julia Cordray, People co-founder and CEO. The app gained negative press coverage last year when plans for a launch were announced, with critics saying the app acted as a sort of "Yelp for people" that turned users into commodities. 

Cordray says in an email that her experience owning a recruitment firm called Career Fox actually inspired the app, which she considers "an evolution in recruitment solutions." With few recruitment apps available, "I love where tech and recruitment intersect to help more people get their dream jobs," she says. She also believes that the Peeple app could make LinkedIn "more relevant," especially if LinkedIn one day incorporated Peeple's professional reviews into its site. 

Peeple appears to have no current relationship with LinkedIn, and LinkedIn had no immediate comment on Cordray's remarks.  

Media reports have painted Peeple less as a next generation site for professional networking, and more as a platform where online trolling of reputations gets a megaphone. Basing their comments on how the app has been portrayed, recruiters expressed skepticism to Inc.com about Peeple as a go-to source for vetting a candidate's merits or character. They emphasized that they have not attempted to use the nascent app.

In the app's current form, users are permitted to deactivate and can control what content appears on the profile. These features contrast with a previous planned design that would have allowed users to add each other without permission. However, a planned paid feature that would allow users to unlock hidden content has again stoked concerns about defamation and invasion of privacy. Furthermore, the user terms and conditions agreement states "once Content is published it may not be able to be removed."

Recruiters say if a Peeple profile popped up in a Google search of a candidate, they would probably take a look, just as they would anything else. 

"As a recruiter, when you're submitting candidates to clients, it's your obligation  -- it behooves you -- to do a search for their internet presence to begin with," says David Goldman, owner and founder of San Francisco-based Ruby Peak Recruiting.

Peeple appears to be a tool that would add another layer to that search, just as news stories and additional social media profiles would, and as such "has the potential to give a passing opinion or impression," he says.

The app could potentially impact a hiring search if reviews on Peeple corroborate or expand on something a recruiter saw elsewhere, says Greg Lamboy, vice president of talent acquisition for San Francisco-based Hager Executive Search. For example, if you notice a pattern where someone appears to be saying racist things on Facebook, and then see reviews on Peeple citing racist behavior, a recruiter might then take notice, he says. 

"It would probably add some hue and color to the overall portrait, but our job is to really get to that truth," Lamboy says, adding that he wouldn't rely on Peeple and has concerns about defamation.

Saoirse Downey, a partner at San Francisco-based recruiting firm Treasure Search Partners, says Peeple appears in its current form to be centered on personal reviews, an area where recruiters should be wary.

"I think it's treading a line where the recruitment industry should not technically be looking or involved in," she says. 

Cordray says there are future plans to incorporate special options to tailor an experience for recruiters where they only see professional reviews. She notes that the romantic category can be turned off.

With the app becoming available to iOS users in North America only within the last week, and expansion to other geographies plus the addition of an Android version pending, it remains to be seen whether the new social media platform will gain traction. Peeple has a 1.5 star rating in the Apple app store.

Published on: Mar 11, 2016