Lawsuit claims Facebook mined PHI from websites of Cleveland Clinic, MD Anderson Cancer Center & more for advertising profit

Three Facebook users have filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook, several medical organizations and providers alleging Facebook obtained and used health information without their knowledge or consent, according to a Law360 report.

Smith et al v. Facebook, Inc. et al, filed in the California Northern District Court, names eight defendants including:

•    Adventist Health System, based in Altamonte Springs, Fla.
•    American Cancer Society
•    American Society of Clinical Oncology
•    BJC Healthcare, based in St. Louis
•    Cleveland Clinic
•    Facebook
•    Melanoma Research Foundation
•    University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, based in Houston

The lawsuit alleges Facebook uses private health information to create marketing profiles on each user, according to a Courthouse News Service report. These marketing profiles are then used to tailor advertisements based on that private information.

Lead plaintiff William Smith argues the healthcare organizations named in the lawsuit should have disclosed to patients their relationship with Facebook. The lawsuit specifically points to a chart Facebook uses to sell advertisements. The chart places more than 225 million users into 154 separate medical categories, according the Courthouse News Services report. Mr. Smith argues the harvesting of PHI is not allowed on several medical websites, including websites for Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages, restitution and an injunction to halt the defendants from tracking and disclosing PHI of Facebook users, according to the Courthouse News Services report.

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