What is Circle, and what does it want with your Facebook data?
If you logged into Facebook over the weekend, you may have seen a notification that looked like this, inviting you to check out Circle. You likely know nothing about Circle, but it’s from someone you know, and it looks legit… but what is this strange, Facebook-invading app?
Circle isn’t a social network; it’s a local network. I signed up, and someone named Evan sent me a message. “You’re the 8352th Circle member in New York,” he wrote. “I’m the CEO.” Well, la-de-freakin da, Evan.
But Brendan, you say, surely this must be a hoax? Surely no one would name their social network—excuse me, local network—“Circle,” since universally-adored novelist Dave Eggers just wrote and published a great big important book about Silicon Valley called The Circle.
Wrong! It’s real. It’s got a website and everything. (In fairness, Circle has been around since at least May 2012, while Eggers’s book came out this year.) But the uintended creep factor remains. For instance, if you go to the website, a hand will slowly follow your cursor around the screen. Get it? It’s a joke about location, because it follows you. Circle wants to be close to you. It wants to be near you. It wants to envelop you.
And hey! Why not? It’s awfully pretty, after all, and signing up for Circle is as easy as using your Facebook login credentials, in that piggy-backing way so many apps do. But there are a few reasons "why not."
Circle is one of the many apps jumping on the GPS-reading bandwagon. Platforms like Grindr and Tinder have found wild success combining people and your location—and it’s a formula we’re going to see repeated for awhile. The thing about these networks is that it it takes one weak soul to spam a million: An app like Circle is only useful if your friends (and their location data) are logged in too.
If you click a friend’s notification about joining Circle (which will only come via mobile; Facebook from the desktop won’t read it) you’ll be bumped out to the App Store or Google Play Store. Once you download it, you have to turn on your location, and then you have the option to manually create an account (which is not the highlighted or preferred way to do things) or you can be a cool kid and sign up with Facebook by hitting “Instant Facebook Connect.” And then, you give Facebook access to all this:
It’s so much data that the app asks you again if you’re really OK with it.
If you say yes, then Circle prompts you to hand over your Facebook friends and phone book contacts, and then interface lightly tricks you into “Add Contacts” over that “X” in the top left-hand corner. Everything about this page begs you to continue.
Which all explains the massive influx of Facebook invites to join Circle. They are largely going unappreciated, for the record.
I swear if I get invited to that circle thing on Facebook one more time I'm going to wrap a circle round someone's head— (@Iioncubs) December 9, 2013
Idk what The Circle is, but with this many Facebook requests, it can't be cool— Jacob Becker (@JacobBecker22) December 9, 2013
IF I GET INVITED TO THAT CIRCLE THING ON FACEBOOK ONE MORE TIME— caits (@caitlinnaughts) December 9, 2013
WTF is this circle bullshit that I keep getting notifications for on Facebook!?!…Just Fuck off!!— Usman Buzzman (@UsmanA13) December 9, 2013
It looks like this is one ‘square’ Circle won’t be taking! Ha ha ha ha ha *logs off Internet forever.*