BONN, Germany (Reuters) – Germany’s antitrust watchdog expects to take first steps this year in its probe against Facebook (FB.O) after finding that the social media giant abused its market dominance to gather data on people without their knowledge or consent.

FILE PHOTO – The logo of Facebook is pictured during the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 25, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

The probe is being closely watched in Europe amid mounting concerns over leaks of data on tens of millions of Facebook users, as well as the extensive use of targeted ads by foreign powers seeking to influence elections in the United States.

The Federal Cartel Office objects in particular to how Facebook acquires data on people from third-party apps – including its own WhatsApp and Instagram services – and its online tracking of people who aren’t even members.

“We are conscious that this should, and must, go quickly,” cartel office President Andreas Mundt told a news conference on Monday, adding that he hoped to take “first steps” this year. He declined to elaborate.

The German probe is not expected to end in fines for Facebook, in contrast to European Union probes into Google that have ended in multi-billion-dollar penalties, most recently over the preinstallation of its apps on Android smartphones.

Sources familiar with the matter say, however, that the cartel office could require Facebook to take action to address its concerns if the company fails to do so voluntarily.

Facebook responded earlier this year to the cartel office’s request for information, and the authority was…

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