But in her first year in office, she turned the regulator into an outspoken critic of Meta’s business model and the way the company’s platform tracks users online. She believes people are losing the ability to think freely or form their own opinions because “you only see the ads or news they think you’ll be interested in, so you don’t really get the big picture,” she said from her office in Oslo. “These calculations. Laws. They solidify your point. They just give you more and more of what you already thought about.”
Meta spokesman Pollard denied this – pointing to an independent Research The company claims there is little evidence that Meta’s platform itself has a “meaningful impact” on political opinions and behavior.
Cole added that European privacy regulators have taken a cautious approach in the past. “It’s time to do something else.” She hopes Norwegian regulators will provide companies with clear guidance on what they can and cannot do under European privacy laws. “It takes courage on our part because then you are actually guiding the market,” the 51-year-old said. “I started the process by sticking our heads out, being braver, being bolder and taking a stand.”
This new, bolder approach was articulated in August, when Coll’s team rule Meta conducts behavioral advertising illegally in Norway and begins fining the company $100,000 per day Until it changed the business model. Unpaid fines currently exceed $7 million. (Pollard said Meta is in contact with relevant agencies regarding payment.)
Cole said she had lengthy discussions with her team about whether the case should be taken on. She said regulators were worried about the reputational risk if they lost all their resources in the process just to solidify Meta’s position.
But instead, Cole won in a way. A Norwegian court upheld the fine, and her team faced off with a series of Mehta’s lawyers in August. “They were joined by three Norwegian lawyers, three American lawyers and I also think they had an online lawyer from Ireland,” she said. “This is a show of legal strength.” By contrast, Cole could only field three people from her 62-person team.