Hospitals transmitting patient data to Twitter, Facebook? 5 things to know

Facebook parent company Meta and now Twitter are accused of receiving patient data from hospitals and health systems via "pixel" advertising tracking tools.

Here are five things to know about the accusations:

1. Hospitals and health systems — along with a variety of businesses, universities, and government agencies and officials — may be sending personal information about their website visitors to Twitter, according to a December report by digital ad analytics firm Adalytics.

2. In June, investigative journalism nonprofit The Markup reported that dozens of hospitals were transmitting patient medical information to Facebook via the Meta Pixel ad tracking tool, possibly violating a federal privacy law.

3. Several hospitals and health systems — along with Meta — were subsequently sued by patients over the allegations, including Chicago-based Rush University System for Health; University of Chicago Medical Center; Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee and Downers Grove, Ill.; Raleigh, N.C.-based WakeMed; Durham, N.C.-based Duke Health; Northwestern Memorial Hospital In Chicago; and UCSF Medical Center and Dignity Health in San Francisco. Pittsburgh-based UPMC recently entered arbitration with a plaintiff over one of the lawsuits.

4. Some health systems — including Advocate Aurora Health, Indianapolis-based Community Health Network and Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Novant Health — have been transparent about the potentially breached data, while others, such as Duke Health, have flat-out denied the allegations.

5. Meta has denied it collects sensitive personal data through the advertising tool. Neither Twitter nor Meta responded to requests for comment from Becker's for this story.

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