Data and privacy, how are they connected? On the surface one would see data as a term that revolves around the collection and storage of information, like the pictures on your phone or the hundreds of emails you get every day. But is not that information also private or is it public knowledge? Most times those details are stored on servers that many people have access to, so does that then make it publically known? So then, are data and privacy really that different or is data simply the storage of private memories and information?
In The Circle, the collection of data indeed revolves around private memories, experiences, and preferences. Every like, zing, post, comment, favor etc. Mae makes while at The Circle is recorded in their version of “the cloud,” where anyone else can view it. They claim their gathering of these materials is to establish a more interconnected, peaceful world, but is complete honesty the key to peace? Are there not instances where the truth does hurt and would hinder rather than help a situation? Where the debate between the storage of private matters comes into play in The Circle is whether it is just to let everyone have access to it or not; personally, some things are meant to be private. Mae also believes this, especially in regards to the video Francis made of them.
The issue of privacy is prevalent throughout the novel, but by the end it seems to have almost disappeared as The Circle spreads its global initiative of “transparency.” The Circle miraculously seems to convert everyone over to a level of complete openness. Whereas, those who do not wish to give in are eliminated, such as Mercer, who refused to give in to the demands of the Circle. To The Circle privacy is a necessary sacrifice to achieve safety and security in a world where safety is so rare. They believe that collecting all the intelligence available, they will be able to prevent and end threats even before they occur. They hope to establish a level of protection over the world, by eliminating the basic right to privacy and individuality. Privacy is a way to express oneself as their own person, but if that privacy is taken away, one becomes a member of the greater collective group and loses their personal distinction.
But is it not more dangerous to allow the information of the world to be accessed by anyone? The secrets and the information that have been hidden to protect us would be available to anyone, I find that more dangerous than keeping secrets. In the view of The Circle we, as citizens of the world, are viewed as data ourselves. We are one out of the billions of people on The Circle’s server. There is a greater chance of vulnerability and danger if information and lives are concentrated in a single place; one attack of some sort would spell disaster. So, by trying to unite the world the Circle actually made the world a more vulnerable place. There is strength in numbers, but one collective mind is not as powerful, interesting, or miraculous as a group of different minds. The Circle sacrificed the privacy to be ourselves in order to establish order.