In the dystopian fantasy world of The Circle, technology is presented as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it revolutionizes how people interact and communicate with each other. At the same time, it has a dark side, which can so easily turn humans into little more than glorified machines.
On the face of it, the eponymous tech company has employees. But in actual fact they're little more than cogs in a gigantic wheel, whose sole purpose in life is to serve the company's interests at the expense of their own. In such a toxic working environment, we can see, in exaggerated form, some of the challenges of modern-day working, such as the lack of privacy due to open-plan offices and the profusion of social media.
Many people in this day and age live a considerable part of their lives online, and The Circle takes that development a step further by turning Mae's life into an open book for all to see. Under the sinister PastPerfect program developed by The Circle, the public can gain a glimpse into participants's past lives. And under the equally invasive SeeChange program, the details of Mae's day-to-day life are exposed to the world. In that sense, then, the company owns both its employees's present lives and their past histories.