I just read The Circle, Dave Egger’s 2013 dystopian novel about a young employee of a tech company that aspires to “complete the circle”: making all information available to everyone, all the time, with the mantra “privacy is theft”. I found the technology discussion obtuse, but the themes resonated with me.
In the book, the titular company seeks to abolish privacy through the use of “SeeChange” cameras. The leadership of this company genuinely believes that consolidation of the world’s information in a single for-profit company is in the interest of humanity. The novel illustrates the absurdity of this idea through personal tragedy.
Last week, the news broke that Facebook has been paying teenagers to provide them with complete access to their phone and web activity. This could easily have taken place in the world of this novel, in which The Circle seeks to implant tracking chips in the bones of babies at birth. In a year of escalating scandals, it’s also the tipping point for me; I’m done with Facebook. I deleted my Facebook account two years ago, and I haven’t missed it for a moment. I deleted my Instagram account today. This website is now my exclusive public presence1.
The open web is the only inoculation against the tragedy that comes with the consolidation of information within companies like The Circle.
I’ve been inactive on Twitter for months, except for auto-generated links to this site. ↩