But in his first year in office, he turned the regulator into an outspoken critic of Meta’s business model and the way the company’s platforms track users online. She believes people are losing the ability to think freely or form their own opinions because of the way platforms like Meta work. “You only see ads or news that they think interest you, so you don’t really understand the bigger picture,” she says, speaking from her office in Oslo. “There is a lot of discrimination in many of these algorithms. They will consolidate your opinions. They will simply provide you with more and more than you already think.”
Pollard, spokesperson for Meta, denies this and points to independent sources. investigation which states that there is little evidence that Meta platforms alone cause “significant effects on” political opinions and behavior.
In the past, European privacy regulators have played it safe, Coll adds. “Now is the time to do something else.” He wants the Norwegian regulator to give companies clear guidance on what they can and cannot do under European privacy law. “This requires courage on our part, because then you are really driving the market,” says the 51-year-old. “The process I have started is about trying hard, being braver, bolder and taking a stand.”
This new, bolder approach was illustrated in August, when the Coll team ruled that the way Meta carried out behavioral advertising in Norway was illegal and began fining the company $100,000 per day until it changed its business model. The fine, which remains unpaid, currently amounts to more than $7 million. (Pollard says Meta is in contact with the appropriate agency about payment.)
Coll says he had long discussions with his team about whether they should 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, he says.
But instead, Coll won… in a way. The fines were upheld by a Norwegian court, where his team faced several Meta lawyers in August. “They were there with three Norwegian lawyers, three American lawyers and I think they also had online lawyers from Ireland,” he says. “It was a show of legal force.” In comparison, Coll was only able to send three people from his 62-person team.