The digital age is both amazing and terrifying. In today’s world, we can locate long-lost friends, instantly transfer money to different accounts, talk to people on the other side of the planet, buy and sell goods, and store precious media in the mysterious Cloud. However, the digital age also sees countless occasions of identity theft, stalking, trolling, hacking, and viruses that can completely destroy everything on your hard drive.
The freedom we have to do whatever we want online, to see whatever we want and search for whatever we want, has people asking what privacy even is anymore. What’s really ‘public domain’ in this age of digital media? Is anything ever really deleted? Is our privacy really protected? How much information are we really giving away by shopping, banking, and playing online? Are the measures we have in place safe enough to protect our most precious assets? And, most importantly, what new developments are in store for a world that constantly begs for “the next best thing”?
In the fictional (but scarily true) novel, The Circle, it becomes clear that our digital profiles, no matter how secure we may think they are, offer an abundance of information to those running the Internet’s most powerful sites…and there’s little to nothing that can be done to stop it.
When Mae Holland is hired to work for The Circle, the world’s most powerful Internet company, she cannot wait to jump in and get started. Loosely and sort of obviously based on a Google-type company, The Circle is a powerhouse California start-up, featuring a sprawling campus, glass dining facilitates, cozy dorms, amazing after-work parties, and an abundance of clubs for practically every passion.
In a nutshell, The Circle aims to link users’ personal emails, social media, banking, purchasing history, and basically all online activity with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity that boasts about a “new age of civility and transparency”. Want to buy new shoes? Facebook message a friend? Connect with a colleague’s professional network? Pay a bill? Schedule a party? All that and more can be done within The Circle interface…and everyone who’s anyone has already joined.
Filled with young and impressionable minds, The Circle’s staff is made up of the best of the best from Silicon Valley…and Mae knows she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime to work there. As she tours the campus, she becomes engrossed in the company’s activity and dedication to employee morale. Famous musicians play on the lawn, an aquarium of rare fish offer a place of solitude, and employees seem almost happy and willing to go the extra mile for the good of the company.
Mae quickly learns the ropes of her job and impresses leadership with her skills and attention to detail. As she starts to gain recognition at The Circle and her interface begins to grow, Mae learns how amazing this technology is…and how much it’s doing to improve the world at large…
Or is it? Even as life outside of work grows distant…even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken…even as her role at The Circle becomes increasingly public…Mae still can’t believe her great fortune to be a part of this ground-breaking company. But is this truly the opportunity of a lifetime…or is this the power of the digital age on young and influential minds?
What begins as a captivating story of one woman’s ambition to succeed soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense and terror, raising ethical and moral questions about privacy, democracy, and basic human rights.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.