Population growth, urbanisation and climate change are some of today’s most significant challenges. Deploying big data and technologies to cities can potentially mitigate the countless problems faced by society. However, regardless of the numerous opportunities, concerns are being raised regarding data biases, privacy and the increase in surveillance. This literature review aims to assess the existing research on the topic of big data in smart cities in a critical manner to showcase divergences by scrutinising the topic from various perspectives. First, arguments underpinned by the bounded technical-rational view are outlined, including technical possibilities, best practices and the performance measurements of smart cities. Attention then turns to socially embedded assumptions, questioning the overall utility of smart city initiatives. In conclusion, this review reveals an area for further research to explore: leveraging big data in smart cities to benefit all stakeholders.