[W]e know that Facebook, Google, and other tech companies do things that are almost more insidious than responding to what we say in private. The scope of their surveillance is actually difficult to describe, but the tech proprietor Maciej Ceglowski tried, in an important essay on the loss of “ambient privacy” in the world Silicon Valley is creating. He notes that the calls for regulation coming from the CEOs of Google and Facebook reflect their self-interest. They are happy to be told by the government how to protect the “privacy” of data generated by their surveillance, so long as they can profit from it. Ultimately their interest is in seeing the creation of a “world with no ambient privacy and strong data protections.”
That is, Facebook and Google will still catalogue and analyze your behavior all across the Internet in ways that you barely realize. The regulation they desire is merely a way of removing responsibility from them for their decisions and imposing huge overhead costs on potential competitors. Most forms of “consent” to this surveillance turn out to be superficial. The amount of data Google and Facebook collect about the world sheds enough light for them to make accurate predictions about what exists in the spaces filled by non-users.
The tech giants know what sites you visit, what images you linger on, the identity of your friends and family. They can infer even secrets about your desires that you hardly admit to yourself.