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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. She continued:. It was cold - I had a skirt on myself - and I saw a sex worker on the street. Why do they have to stand there in the winter all day?
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.
Still, there are some obvious issues. Sex workers who solicit on the streets get a chance to suss out customers before they go off alone with them. Streetwalkers also tend to cluster in groups, for good reasons other than attracting customers. Having someone who can pay attention to who you're going off with and whose car you're stepping into can provide an extra, if far from infallible, sense of security.
Exchange that for the comfort of an app, and prostitutes could find themselves turning up to a strange address to meet someone they've had little chance to assess. This is of course what thousands of sex workers who advertise on the Internet already do daily, but it could be one reason why some still prefer the streets. The strip where Poppenreiter first got her idea is probably safer than average. Angela Merkel herself lives in an apartment barely meters away, so this is hardly some far-flung alley.