Users’ Privacy becomes commodities- the broken promise of the big tech companies

"data privacy" by stockcatalog is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

In the early days when the internet was still in the phase of web 1, all the social media platforms and the communicative technologies we have today were merely something to be dreamed of. As time moves on, the internet became more efficient and mature, leading our world into a digital era where almost anything can be done through high tech. Yet, the growth of the internet extends the power of the big tech companies we have today such as Facebook and Google. These companies use the power of the internet to monopolize the whole economic system. Most importantly, people are forced to enter the era of big data in which big tech companies used users’ privacy, and analyzed our behavior to gain profit through big data and surveillance capitalism, which greatly impacts our daily lives.

Failing promises- The unethical business model

“dinero facebook” by clasesdeperiodismo is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The big tech companies have promised users privacy and security when using their platforms, but does it hold up to their promises? Using Facebook as the main example, according to Newcomb (2018), in 2011 Facebook faced privacy charges by regulators stating that it falsely claimed the operation of the users’ data will only be partially used by third-party apps. But In fact, it leaked all users’ personal data to third-party apps. Furthermore, one of the greatest leaks of users’ privacy would undisputedly be the Cambridge Analytica scandal back in early 2018. According to Brown (2020), approximately 87 million people’s personal data was stolen from Facebook users due to Facebook allowing third-party apps to collect users’ information. The scandal greatly harmed Facebook users’ privacy, and many decided to delete the social media platform following this incident. This indicates that Facebook has long been a tech company that holds privacy issues with its users, and it clearly did not hold up to its promises. Yet, why does Facebook keep breaching users’ privacy again and again? The reason is clear, personal data have become an ideal source that holds enormous economic value, and Facebook just happened to have the best advantage. According to Esteve (2017), Facebook is currently the world’s largest social network and holds the largest database of personal data. Hence, being at the top of the mountain gives them extra power on controlling their users’ privacy to gain maximum profit. As a result, in terms of Facebook’s business model, Sherman (2018) presented the idea that Facebook is never going to change its business model since invading users’ privacy will exchange huge paychecks from advertisers. In other words, Facebook is currently putting its priority on making profits, and it will do everything to keep it that way, even if it must break its promise and breach users’ privacy.

The misuse of big data and the rise of surveillance capitalism

Today, we have entered the era of big data in which almost all business models rely upon it. Big data is a dataset that involves a large amount of complex information, and it is an extremely useful asset to companies since it can be analyzed and provide businesses with a better view of what their consumers are thinking. Well, it sounds perfect since it benefits businesses by making a better profit, but big data also comes with consequences. According to Pence (2014), privacy concerns have always been controversial in big data, and it can serve as a threat since every digital search and social media post can be tracked and used by companies. For instance, Facebook and Google are two of the main big tech companies that hold controversy about their users’ personal data. Google and Facebook according to Marr (2016), use our very personal data such as tracking what web pages we visit and predicting our behavior and thinking from our everyday habits. Moreover, Facebook collected and stored an enormous number of users’ data due to its popularity as a social media network. It tracked users’ cookies, analyzed users’ likes, and sold them to advertisers (Monnappa, 2022). The action that these big tech companies made welcome people into the age of surveillance capitalism.

Surveillance Capitalism, which is a term coined by scholar Shoshana Zuboff takes us into a new sphere of the digital world we lived in today. Zuboff’s ideology is centered around the two concepts of behavioral surplus and instrumentarian power. The concept of behavioral surplus in the way that Zuboff understands it “refers to the practice of rendering human behavior as data and profiting from it” (Laniuk, 2021). To clarify this, Google was the first tech company to discover that the data left by their users contains valuable insights into human behavior, and if predicted can bring the company wealth (Laniuk, 2021). Yet, when the behavioral surplus is largely gathered through surveillance, users’ privacy will be materialized. On the other hand, instrumentarian power according to Zuboff is like an invisible power held by big tech companies intentionally changing users’ will through behavior modification without the users knowing it (Laniuk, 2021). In other words, by combining both concepts, we get surveillance capitalism, a new phenomenon occurring in our world today. It is simply a new form of capitalism under the control of the big tech companies through monitoring and manipulating users’ personal data to reach profitable ends.

“Fabulous quote from Shoshana Zuboff’s ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism'” by Steve Bowbrick is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Impact: the filter bubble theory

“File:Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble – Flickr – Knight Foundation (1).jpg” by Knight Foundation is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Breaching of privacy from the big tech companies causes far more impact than we thought. It is not merely our freedom of privacy that is taken away, our mindset can also be forcibly changed. What we often ignored is that whenever we go online, whether using social media or search engines, we entered a filter bubble. The ideology of filter bubble was first coined by internet activist Eli Pariser back in 2011. He noticed that many search engines provide different answers to different users even when searching for identical words. Hence, he speculates that Google and other social media platforms consist of algorithmic personalization which can provide personalized information to different individuals (Bruns, 2019). According to Haim et al. (2018), algorithmic personalization uses our personal interests, preferences, and contextual information such as location to customize an optimal result that best suit the users. In other words, users are being monitored and our privacy is again being used by the company’s algorithms. Therefore, users are constantly trapped in a bubble where only similar perspectives and ideas will be displayed on their devices. This is particularly troublemaking since the information that we received can be filtered based on our previous search history with the system and this hinders individuals from getting a different point of view thus having a distorted reality, and it is often ignored by the users which makes it difficult to burst the bubble.


The big tech companies have initially promised users’ privacy and security on their platforms. However, they did not hold up to their promises, instead, they breached our privacy, monitored our personal data, and manipulate our minds in exchange for maximum profits. The money over morals business model outlines the cruelty of our society today. We are now living in a world of capitalism, a world where big tech companies have firm control and monopoly over the economic system. Today, People are no longer consumers on the internet but commodities under the control of big tech companies. We are surrounded by surveillance capitalism and our privacy means nothing in front of money.



Avantika Monnappa. (2022, July 21). How Facebook is Using Big Data – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Simplilearn.

Bruns, A. (2019). Filter bubble. Internet Policy Review8(4).

Brown, A. J. (2020). “Should I Stay or Should I Leave?”: Exploring (Dis)continued Facebook Use After the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. Social Media + Society6(1), 205630512091388–.

Esteve, A. (2017). The business of personal data: Google, Facebook, and privacy issues in the EU and the USA. International Data Privacy Law7(1), 36–47.

Haim, M., Graefe, A., & Brosius, H.-B. (2018). Burst of the Filter Bubble?: Effects of personalization on the diversity of Google News. Digital Journalism6(3), 330–343.

Laniuk, Y. (2021). Freedom in the Age of surveillance capitalism: Lessons from Shoshana Zuboff. Ethics & Bioethics (in Central Europe)11(1), 67–81.

Marr, B. (2016). Big Data in Practice: How 45 Successful Companies Used Big Data Analytics to Deliver Extraordinary Results. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Newcomb, A. (2018, March 24). A timeline of Facebook’s privacy issues — and its responses. NBC News.

Pence, H. E. (2014). What is Big Data and Why is it Important? Journal of Educational Technology Systems43(2), 159–171.

Sherman, L. (2018, May 23) Zuckerberg’s Broken Promises Show Facebook Is Not Your Friend. Forbes.