Meta Is Sued For Using A Tracker To Access Hospitalized Patient Data

The tool provided information to the social networks of Facebook and Instagram to promote personalized advertising.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is facing two class action lawsuits alleging that it used a self - developed tool to track patient data from different hospitals without their consent. According to an investigation carried out by The Markup, these health centers would have used a tracker called Meta Pixel on their web pages, a tool with which information about patients can be accessed.

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Among the data that this instrument is capable of collecting are the names of sick or hospitalized people, the time of an appointment, the name of the doctor or the medications with which they experience allergic reactions. In addition to having access to sensitive data, including the diseases or conditions diagnosed in these patients, Meta Pixel is capable of providing information to the company's social networks, Facebook and Instagram, to promote personalized advertising.

According to this organization, 33 of the 100 main hospitals in the United States were using Meta Pixel in their corresponding web pages, something that they would not be authorized to implement due to the HIPAA privacy regulation. Based on the improper use of this tool, two class action lawsuits have been filed accusing the company of violating this regulation, as well as the California Invasion of Privacy Law by collecting patient data without their consent.

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The first of the lawsuits originated in late July, when several affected parties filed a lawsuit against Meta, the UCSF Medical Center and the Dignity Health Medical Foundation. As reported by Bleeping Computer at the time, this tracking of their confidential information had taken place beyond the login walls, where patients enter their data to access benefits such as prescriptions or medical tests.

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According to the lawsuit, those affected became aware of the violation of their privacy when Facebook began targeting them with personalized ads tailored to their medical conditions. Furthermore, this document accuses the company and the health care providers of knowing that this data collection operation was illegal and, despite this, they continued to run the tracking tool. The other class action lawsuit, which was filed in June, claims that at least 664 health care providers, such as hospitals and health centers, shared medical information with Facebook through Meta Pixel.

As indicated by Engadget, which has contacted Meta, it has recalled that the company requires that websites that use this tracker must first obtain the right to share the data before sending it to their social networks.

These lawsuits will need to be certified by a judge as class actions before they can move forward and reach class status. If successful, legal action could prove to be costly for Meta, as damages are being sought on behalf of all Facebook users who would have shared their data with these hospitals.

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