Norway orders Meta to stop behavioural ads or face fines

18 Jul 2023

Image: © sdx15/

The country’s data protection authority shared concerns that targeted advertising can lead to discrimination and impact election campaigns.

Norway’s data regulator plans to temporarily ban Meta’s behavioural advertising practices in the country, with the threat of daily fines if the tech giant refuses to comply.

The country’s data protection authority said the ban will apply from 4 August and will last for three months, or “until Meta can show that it complies with the law”. The company could be fined up to 1m Norwegian Krone a day (roughly $100,000) if it fails to comply.

The regulator said Meta – which owns Facebook and Instagram – holds “vast amounts” of data on Norwegian citizens, including sensitive data. The authority said it is concerned that sensitive details could be used to push specific ads on individuals.

The Norwegian authority also said targeted advertising can impact freedom of expression and freedom of information in society, as Meta decides what to show in its ads and “what not to show someone”.

“There is a risk that behavioural advertising strengthens existing stereotypes or could lead to unfair discrimination of various groups,” the authority said. “Behavioural targeting of political adverts in election campaigns is particularly problematic from a democratic perspective.”

Digital rights group NOYB welcomed the decision and said it is a first step towards “actual enforcement” of GDPR.

In January, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) fined Meta Ireland €390m for GDPR breaches related to Facebook and Instagram. Meta was also directed to bring its data processing operations into GDPR compliance within three months.

In March, Meta agreed to change its targeted advertising practices in order to comply with this January ruling. The tech giant changed the legal basis that it uses to process certain first-party data in Europe from ‘contractual necessity’ to ‘legitimate interests’.

But Meta’s data practices suffered another hit earlier this month, when a top European court ruled against this legal basis. The Norwegian regulator referenced this case as a factor in imposing its temporary ban.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic