Privacy, security and mass surveillance have been hot topics since Edward Snowden’s revelations. So it’s no surprise that some authors take up those topics and write books based on them. Dave Eggers’ “The Circle” is one of those.
For me “The Circle” is a modern variant of “1984”. Dave Eggers takes all the nice and cool technology we have today and asks “What if we push it further? What if we do what can be done?”. Because he takes what we know and use nowadays it’s far more shocking and depressing than “1984”. “1984” feels archaic and funny at times when read today. “The Circle” seems to be pretty possible.
The Circle is a big company. Just picture a company that produces the devices most people buy, provides the search engine most people use and owns the social networks most people spend their time on. And it’s a company that still grows as it regularly gulps new startups they call “plankton”.
The Circle gradually introduces new technology and new features that cut away at the privacy of its users. It’s all for the bigger good. As each of the new technologies provides new levels of convenience to them or even goes so far as to prevent crime, people are amazed and demand it before it’s even available.
Consequently people find new ways to employ those new technologies for even more convenience and security, happily accepting that in the end there is no privacy, no place on earth were you cannot be seen on some camera.
“The Circle” ends with a depressing vision of total surveillance and poses the question “At which point does sacrificing privacy for convenience and security turn out to be insecure and inconvenient and will we be able to turn back when we reach it?”