The Circle by Dave Eggers

If you’re concerned about the loss of privacy in modern life or are feeling overwhelmed by your participation in social media, circleread this novel!  Privacy issues aren’t at the top of my list of concerns, and I don’t even use social media, but I still found this a disturbing, fascinating, and thought-provoking read.

The novel begins, “My God,” Mae thought.  “It’s heaven.”  Mae just left an unfulfilling job at a utility company in her hometown, and this is her first day on the job at the Circle, a technology company.  The work sounds exciting, and Mae looks forward to helping the company to make life better for everyone.  The fringe benefits include free food, sports facilities, and fun social events.

As time goes on, however, some of the company’s initiatives seem to have a possible dark side.  For example, the company makes it possible to place small hidden cameras in all sorts of places, including beaches and the homes of elderly people, so that the view is accessible to the public.  Wonderful – anyone can easily watch the surf on a beach and plan recreational activities accordingly.  Families can unobtrusively keep their eyes on their loved ones and become aware of problems needing their attention.  But – does someone sea kayaking at the beach want large numbers of people watching him?  Are the cameras in a person’s home an invasion of privacy?

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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