Happy 2018 dear readers!
The new General Data Protection Regulation, which may make it more difficult for websites and other providers to collect our data without express consent, will only come into force in a few months.
Meanwhile, national authorities seem to be reaching a point where they are ready to adopt less straightforward strategies to put a halt to what feels to many as excessive practices. See for instance the German competition authority, Bundeskartellamt, whose president has just announced in the press (with an interview in the Rheinischen Post, see also here a summary in Die Zeit) that the authority is investigating Facebook's data collection activities as an abuse of dominant position.
Although Facebook has no German subsidiary, action under competition law seems to be made possible as long as the practice exerts its effects in German territory. The authority had already put Facebook on notice a few weeks ago, especially with reference to the practice of collecting data when consumers browse outside of the social network to later reconnect such data to the user's Facebook account.
Facebook's main defence against the charge is that they are just one social network and users can easily opt for one of their competitors, so they do not enjoy the position of market dominance which is a precondition for any charge of abuse under competition law. Looking forward to seeing this issue develop!