But in her first year at the helm of the company, she turned the regulator into a vocal critic of Meta’s business model and the way the company’s platforms track users online. She believes people are losing their ability to think freely or form their own opinions due to the way platforms like Meta operate. “You only see ads or feeds that they think you’re interested in, so you don’t really see the whole picture,” she says from her office in Oslo. “There is so much discrimination in a lot of these algorithms. They will cement your opinions. They will just provide you with more and more of what you already think.
Meta spokesperson Pollard denies this, pointing to independent reports. research which claims there is little evidence that Meta’s platforms alone cause “significant effects on” political opinions and behavior.
In the past, European privacy regulators have played it safe, Coll adds. “Now it’s time to do something else.” She wants the Norwegian regulator to give companies clear guidance on what they can and cannot do under EU privacy law. “It takes courage on our part, because that’s when you really run the market,” says the 51-year-old. “The process I’ve started is about putting my head out there, being braver, bolder and taking a stand.”
This new, bolder approach was illustrated in August, when Coll’s team governed that the way Meta was doing behavioral advertising in Norway was illegal and started fining the company $100,000 per day until it changes its business model. The fine, still unpaid, currently stands at more than $7 million. (Pollard says Meta is in contact with the relevant agency regarding the payment.)
Coll says she had long discussions with her team about whether to take on the case. There were concerns about the reputational risk if the regulator lost, spending all its resources in the process, just to strengthen Meta’s position, she said.
But instead, Coll won, in a way. The fines were upheld by a Norwegian court, where his team confronted several of Meta’s lawyers in August. “They were there with three Norwegian lawyers, three American lawyers, and I also think they had Irish lawyers lined up,” she says. “It was a show of legal force.” In comparison, Coll was only able to send three people out of his team of 62.