Patient sues Advocate Aurora Health in federal court over 'pixel' data breach

A patient has filed a lawsuit against Advocate Aurora Health and Facebook parent company Meta over their use of "pixel" technology that may have ensnared protected health information.

Alistair Stewart, of Illinois, brought the complaint Oct. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, seeking class-action status, damages and injunctive relief.

Advocate Aurora Health, which is dually headquartered in Downers Grove, Ill., and Milwaukee, acknowledged in October that pixel tracking tools used to monitor patient behavior may have inadvertently transmitted medical records from their patient portal or website to Facebook or Google. The breach may have affected as many as 3 million patients.

The lawsuit claims the health system and Meta violated privacy laws.

"We take patient privacy very seriously, employ robust internal controls to protect patient data and are committed to compliance with all laws applicable to our operations," an Advocate Aurora spokesperson emailed Becker's. "Like others in our industry, we have used internet tracking technologies to improve the consumer experience across our websites and encourage individuals to schedule necessary preventive care. We are thoroughly evaluating the information we collect and track. As part of this evaluation and out of an abundance of caution, we have turned off pixels and related analytics tools across our online properties."

The spokesperson said the health system isn't aware of any misuse of information stemming from the incident.

Advocate Aurora is among the hospitals and health systems that have been sued in recent months over their use of pixels. That list also includes Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, University of California San Francisco Medical Center and San Francisco-based Dignity Health. Meta didn't respond to a request from Becker's for comment.

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