Facebook’s parent company is being sued again. Indeed, Meta and major US hospitals are accused of violating medical privacy laws with a tracking tool that sends health information to Facebook. The said tracking tool is dubbed “Meta Pixel” and can be installed on websites to provide analytics on advertisements.
The tool also collects information about how people click and enter information on these websites. Complaints filed in a Northern California court allege that Meta and hospitals are unlawfully collecting sensitive patient health data for advertising purposes. Neither informs patients about data collection or asks for their consent.
Meta Pixel illegally sends personal information to Facebook
In one of the complaints, a patient alleges that her medical data was sent to Facebook by Meta Pixel on the University of California San Francisco and Dignity Health Medical Foundation patient portals. Subsequently, she received advertisements targeted at her heart and knee issues. Another patient at the MedStar Health System in Baltimore claims that at least 664 healthcare providers sent medical data to Facebook via Meta Pixel.
Furthermore, a survey revealed that 33 of the top 100 hospitals in the United States use Meta Pixel on their websites. In some hospitals, it has even been installed on password-protected patient portals. The tool sends information about patients’ health conditions, allergies, medications, and more to Facebook.
Meta’s consent policy is clear
Meta says it requires groups using Meta Pixel to have permission to share data before sending that data to Facebook, and it filters out sensitive health data. But, according to the lawsuits, Meta does not enforce its own policies.
It also appears that Meta placed the tool on the websites of health organizations knowing full well that it would collect personal health information. It should be noted that the lawsuits must be certified as class actions by a judge before being able to proceed to the next step.