But in her first year in charge, she has turned the regulator into an outspoken critic of Meta’s business model and the way the company’s platforms track users online. She believes that people are losing their ability to think freely or form their own opinions due to the way platforms like Meta’s work. “You are only seeing commercials or newsfeeds which they think interest you, so you don’t really get the big picture,” she says, speaking from her office in Oslo. “There’s so much discrimination in so many of these algorithms. They will cement your opinions. They will just provide you with more and more of what you already think.”
Pollard, Meta spokesperson, denies this—pointing to independent research that claims there is little evidence Meta’s platforms alone cause “meaningful effects on” political views and behavior.
In the past, European privacy regulators have played safe, Coll adds. “Now it’s time to do something else.” She wants the Norwegian regulator to give companies clear guidance about what they can and can’t do under European privacy law. “That takes courage from our side because then you’re actually guiding the market,” the 51-year-old says. “The process that I’ve started is about sticking our head out, being more courageous, being bolder and taking a stand.”
This new, bolder approach was illustrated in August, when Coll’s team ruled that the way Meta carried out behavioral advertising in Norway was illegal, and started fining the company $100,000 per day until it changed its business model. The fine, which remains unpaid, currently stands at over $7 million. (Pollard says Meta is in touch with the relevant agency about payment.)
Coll says she had long discussions with her team about whether they should take on the case. There were concerns about reputational risk if the regulator lost, spending all its resources in the process, just to strengthen Meta’s position, she says.
But instead, Coll won—in a way. The fines were upheld by a Norwegian court, where her team confronted an array of Meta’s lawyers in August. “They were there with three Norwegian lawyers, three US lawyers, and I also think they had lawyers online from Ireland,” she says. “It was a show of legal muscle.” By comparison, Coll was able to send only three people from her team of 62.