According to two planned class-action lawsuits, Facebook’s parent corporation Meta and significant US hospitals broke medical privacy regulations by using a tracking tool that transfers health information to Facebook.
The Meta Pixel monitoring tool is at the center of the lawsuits, which were submitted to the Northern District of California in June and July. The program can be deployed on websites to offer Facebook and Instagram ad metrics. Additionally, information is gathered on website navigation and data entry by users.
33 of the top 100 hospitals in the United States employ the Meta Pixel on their websites, according to a June 1 research by The Markup. It was set up on password-protected patient portals at seven institutions. According to the investigation, the tool was posted on Facebook with details on patients’ medical histories, doctor appointments, and medication allergies.
In one of the complaints, a plaintiff claims that the University of California San Francisco and Dignity Health patient portals’ Meta Pixel function transferred her medical information to Facebook (those hospitals are also defendants in the suit). According to the lawsuit, the patient was subsequently shown advertisements specific to her knee and heart issues.
The plaintiff in the other case, a patient at the MedStar Health System in Baltimore, Maryland, claims that at least 664 medical professionals have transmitted Facebook personal health information via the Meta Pixel.
Healthcare organizations are required by the medical privacy law HIPAA to obtain patients’ agreement before disclosing personally identifiable health information to outside parties. According to Meta, it filters out important health information and demands that groups utilizing the Meta Pixel have the legal authorization to communicate information before sending it to Facebook. According to the claims, Meta placed the Pixel on healthcare organizations’ websites knowing that it would gather personal health information while also purposefully not enforcing those regulations.
Before the lawsuits can proceed, a judge will need to certify them as class actions. If either of them prevails, they might file a lawsuit for damages on behalf of all Facebook users whose doctors used the Meta Pixel.