Mae Holland has landed a job at the Circle, “the most influential company in the world,” with help from her college friend Annie. The Circle, created by three "Wise Men," combines all of one's online interactions (social media and other business and personal communication, medical information, everything) into a single online identity called a TruYou, and has been growing to contain virtually all the other information that exists across the world. The company uses technological innovation to create what it claims is a more efficient and accountable society, especially by increasing transparency in government, business, and even personal lives. Cameras are everywhere, biological functions are monitored wirelessly, and the Circle adds more and more to its network. Mae begins work in Customer Experience and initially is concerned about her privacy, but she quickly rises in the ranks, gaining access to more screens of information (some of which she wears) and getting sucked into the arguments for full transparency, while her parents and ex-boyfriend Mercer grow increasingly horrified by the new rejection of private spaces and off-the-grid anonymity. She also becomes romantically involved with two men, an awkward coworker named Francis and a mysterious man who calls himself "Kalden." Kalden warns her of the dangers of "completing" the Circle, that is, making everything known to everyone so superficially and with so little respect for the individual. After Mae is caught illegally kayaking at night, she goes through a session of public shaming in front of the whole company and thus accepts a role as the primary "transparent" face of the Circle. She becomes world-famous, rejects Kalden's concerns, loses her identity, and essentially becomes a cyborg. Meanwhile, government officials and then more and more people are pressured to give up their privacy to go transparent so that the rest of the world can keep tabs on their morals.