Facebook sued after claims of patient data being secretly sent to its platform

Facebook is facing a lawsuit alleging the company is receiving private medical data when patients access hospital websites for healthcare providers, Bloomberg reported June 17. 

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court on June 17 on behalf of millions of patients, accuses the company's Meta Pixel tracking tool of redirecting patient communications and other secure information to Facebook without authorization.

The plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, according to the suit.

The lawsuit comes after The Markup reported June 16 that some of the largest health systems in the U.S. had installed Meta Pixel on their websites. This tool would send patient data such as IP addresses, physicians' names and search terms used to find the physician to Facebook in exchange for analytics about the ads that the health system places on Facebook and Instagram. 

Former regulators, health data security experts and privacy advocates say that the hospitals and health systems that have installed this tracker may have violated HIPAA, which prohibits covered entities from sharing patient identifiable health information with third parties like Facebook, unless consent is given. 

The Markup's report did not find evidence that the health systems nor Facebook were obtaining patients' consent.

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