If a German app launched this month succeeds, smartphones could well be the next big marketplace for prostitution. Not unlike Uber for sex workers, the Berlin-based Peppr app uses GPS to connect potential clients with prostitutes in their immediate area.
Prostitution is legal in Germany, and the app’s declared intention is to save prostitutes from having to pound sidewalks for customers.
It was created by Austrian developer Pia Poppenreiter – you couldn’t make up her (actually genuine) last name, which translates loosely as “screw-rider” – who came up with the idea after seeing sex workers out of doors on a cold night. “The story always sounds corny, but it’s true,” she told German start-up magazine Grunderszene. She continued:
On a late autumn day in Berlin, I was on my way with a friend to a bar on Oranienburger Straße. It was cold – I had a skirt on myself – and I saw a sex worker on the street. I thought, “It’s crazy that there’s an app for everything, but not for that. Why do they have to stand there in the winter all day?” That thought has never left me.
To help make sure that its sex workers don’t become part of any human trafficking chain, Peppr interviews its advertisers over the phone before they sign them up, hoping to weed out anyone who is working against their will. The company will also not work with brothels, only individuals and escort agencies.
Given that legal prostitution is already common and open across Germany, the app seems a fairly sound way for prostitutes to drum up customers from the comfort of a chair. The app’s relative privacy could also be welcome – users could, for example, send identifiable headshots only after receiving a message. Many women and men working in the sex industry are keen to find ways to limit their exposure only to potential clients.