Sutter Health sued for allegedly sharing patients' health data with Facebook, Google

Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health patients filed a lawsuit against the health system for allegedly sharing patients' private information, attained through the health system's website, with technology giants such as Facebook and Google, Courthouse News Service reports.

The lawsuit claims that Sutter Health added source code to its website that can control patients' web browsers, without their consent, and capture their private health information when individuals perform site functions including searching for a physician, researching medical information and paying bills. Patients' health information that is collected is then assigned a cookie identification number and shared with third parties, which use the numbers to target internet ads for Sutter Health patients and potential patients, according to the report.

A Sutter Health spokesperson told Becker’s Hospital Review in an emailed statement that the health system has not yet been served the complaint but “it takes the safety and security of our patient information very seriously.”

The lawsuit alleges that Sutter Health patients are likely unaware that their information, including search history on subjects like cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, is being shared with third parties. The patients accused Sutter Health of seven causes of action, including violation of California's Invasion of Privacy Act and the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act.

"The data disclosed by defendant to Facebook, Google and others in this case is 'medical information' under the Medical Information Act because it includes information derived from defendant regarding its patients' 'medical history, physical condition or treatment,'" the complaint states.

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