Meta facing lawsuit over violation of medical privacy

Five anonymous plaintiffs have alleged that at least 664 medical providers have used pixel tracking technology on their websites and patient portals, which has allowed Meta to obtain patients' protected health information, Bloomberg Law reported Sept. 8. 

In a consolidated lawsuit, the plaintiffs allege that Meta collected health information of people with Facebook accounts by installing pixels on the patient portals of their healthcare providers. 

The plaintiffs also say the tech giant was able to profit from the information by using it to deliver targeted ads, according to the publication. 

Meta tried to dismiss the claims in a motion, stating that the plaintiffs didn't provide enough evidence to establish that the company’s intent was to collect their information.

This motion was denied by William Orrick, a judge from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, on Aug. 7 as he stated that the patients could pursue claims that Meta violated a federal wiretap law and a California privacy law. 

Mr. Orrick said the plaintiffs "sufficiently pleaded that the information Meta collected through the pixel qualified as 'content of communications,' and that there were factual issues preventing the court from determining at this stage that the hospitals had consented to the transfer of health information to the company."

Some of the healthcare organizations cited in the lawsuit include Columbia, Md.-based MedStar Health System; Chicago-based Rush University System for Health; Raleigh, N.C.-based WakeMed Health and Hospitals; Columbus-based Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; and North Kansas City (Mo.) Hospital.

A study published in Health Affairs found that 98.6 percent of U.S. hospital and health system websites implemented tracking technologies that sent patient data to third-party companies such as Alphabet, Meta and Adobe. 

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