Meta got Sued for breach of patient privacy with a data tracking tool
In two proposed class-action lawsuits, Facebook’s parent company, Meta, and major US hospitals are accused of violating medical privacy regulations by utilizing a tracking mechanism that sends health information to Facebook, and Meta got sued.
The complaints, filed in June and July in the Northern District of California, centered on the MetaPixel tracking technology. The application, which can be deployed on websites, provides analytics on Facebook and Instagram advertisements. It also collects data on how consumers click and enter information on those websites.
Sending information to Facebook about patients’ health conditions
In early June, The Markup discovered that 33 of the top 100 hospitals in the United States use meta pixels on their websites. It was deployed on a password-protected patient portal in seven hospitals. According to investigations, the tool was transferring information on patients’ health issues, doctor’s visits, and drug allergies to Facebook.
Role of MetaPixel tool
In one complaint Meta got sued, a patient claims that the MetaPixel feature on the University of California San Francisco and Dignity Health patient portals sent her medical information to Facebook (those hospitals are also defendants in the lawsuit). According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was shown advertisements that were tailored to his heart and knee ailments.
A second case, filed by a patient at MedStar Health System in Baltimore, Maryland, claims that at least 664 healthcare practitioners submitted medical data to Facebook using a meta pixel.
Patient consent required
Under the medical privacy law HIPAA, health organizations must obtain patient agreement before sharing personally identifiable health information with third parties. Meta claims it needs permission to share data with groups that use the MetaPixel, and it filters sensitive health data before sending it to Facebook cause Meta got sued.
The claims claim that Meta is purposefully not enforcing such restrictions and that it placed the pixel on health organizations’ websites knowing it will gather personal health information.
Before a trial can begin, a judge must certify it as a class action. If one is successful, one may seek damages on behalf of all Facebook users whose medical providers use the meta pixel.
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