Privacy is theft! Dave Eggers' big-screen takedown of Google and Facebook emerges

Resistance is futile

By Andrew Orlowski

Posted in Bootnotes, 7th December 2016 11:27 GMT

The Circle, Dave Eggers' novel about a society dominated by an omniscient, cult-like Silicon Valley internet company, has been given the big-screen treatment, with the trailer emerging this week. The movie's promo site has a witty parody of the "onboarding" process for a web platform – enjoy the unreadable EULA as it flashes past, and all your privacy and personal data is slurped up.

The eponymous company at the heart of the novel is an amalgamation of Google and Facebook, and is set in the near future. Eggers captures the deranged utopianism of The Circle's creepy executives who believe in "perfectible humans". All privacy has been voluntarily surrendered for a synthetic "community" and security.

Company rallies reinforce the ideology through chanting "sharing is caring" and "privacy is theft". How is privacy theft, you may wonder? It's because any private moment not shared is considered hoarding, and by hoarding it, you are "robbing" the "commons" of your experience. It's Lawrence Lessig, but slightly more so. There is no sovereignty of the individual in this world: data cannot be withheld, nor can permission, while an individual's reputation is defined by the faceless online collective.

This is a satire of Silicon Valley ideology, as filtered through its propaganda proxies: political and media-class "gurus", like Jeff Jarvis and Steve Hilton, and its client "digital rights" NGOs, like Public Knowledge. In reality, Google alone funds hundreds of influencers ranging from academics, think tanks to astroturf NGOs.

The book appeared two years before Amazon's creepy Echo always-on home microphone. Eggers' literary conceit is a device called the SeeChange camera, which the population enthusiastically adopts, allowing everyone to watch everyone else in real time. There are no 4G notspots in the Circle, so the technology is a little ahead of the curve – but much else is realistic enough.

The movie follows the fate of two employees of The Circle, played by Karen Gillan and Emma Watson. We'll see if Tom Hanks is too cuddly for the role of the sinister Zuck or Schmidt-style corporate overlord.

If you can't wait, here's the trailer. Hosted on, err, Google's YouTube.

After The Circle, it may take more than a few cute doodles to make Google loveable again.®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily

69 Comments

More from The Register

Neil Young slams Google, after you log in to read his rant with Google or Facebook

Heart Of Gold meets Piece Of Crap

Scammers use Google Maps to skirt link-shortener crackdown

Chocolate Factory's map service cuts commute times, URL lengths

Google borg gobbles Israeli cloud migration startup

Alas poor Velostrata! You knew those AWS and Azure workloads well

'Don't Google Google, Googling Google is wrong', says Google

Chocolate Factory unwraps developer style guide, squibs the thorny ISO date debate

Android devs prepare to hit pause on ads amid Google GDPR chaos

Hey Google. How will we eat?

Dropbox to let Google reach inside it and rummage about

Create and store GDocs in Dropbox, with admin policies preserved

Google listens to New Zealand just long enough to ignore it

'We can't delete court cases, and you can't make us'

US judges say you can Google Google, but you can't google Google

The Chocolate Factory is spared the aspirin treatment by the 9th Circuit Court

Twitter signs for Google cloud at list price of about $10m a month

Shifts Hadoop clusters and their 300PB of data, not the stuff that lets you tweet

Apple: Er, yes. Your iCloud stuff is now on Google's servers, too

You can't escape The Circle