Meta is Being Sued for Its Data-Tracking Tool

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Author: Geoffrey King

In recent times, Meta has been hit with two lawsuits on the grounds of data privacy violations. 

More specifically, both lawsuits are based on medical data violations. News like this doesn’t surprise many people as the company has been criticized for its data handling practices.

We’ll be looking at the specific details of this lawsuit, and what is being alleged against Meta. Let’s dig in.

Meta has been sued for providing US hospitals with a data-tracking tool that allegedly disclosed patient data to Facebook

It looks like Meta is getting into more legal trouble with a fresh lawsuit alleging that the company is using users’ medical information for targeted Facebook ads without permission. 

According to the lawsuit, someone with a heart and knee condition was shown targeted ads for medications based on the person’s hospital patient data from San Francisco Medical Center, University of California.

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The lawsuit is also alleging that Meta has direct access to millions of people’s private medical information without requesting their permission, and is using that data to serve treatment and medicine ads on its social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram).

It came as no shock to some people as this is the second lawsuit accusing Meta and affiliate hospitals of wrongfully sharing patients’ sensitive data.

Both lawsuits suggest that the hospital’s actions violate HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which requires that these hospitals do not disclose sensitive patient health data without their consent.

According to their complaints, the hospitals were using Meta’s Pixel tool, which received access to patient portals and sensitive health data that were password protected. It goes on to say that Meta then sold this data to advertisers on Facebook.

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The tracking tool called Meta Pixel is used by advertisers or businesses for measuring and building audiences for their ad campaigns. 

Meta Pixel tracks and collects information about a user’s web page activity and IP address.

The Markup investigated 100 of the top hospitals in America and found that 33 of them are using Meta Pixel. Collectively, these hospitals handled over 26 million outpatient visits and patient admissions in 2020.

Additionally, another report found 644 hospitals and medical provider web systems that gave Facebook patient data through Meta Pixel.

The patient’s data that was shared with Meta include IP address, appointment times, search terms, doctor names, medical information, and other connections to the user’s Facebook account.

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The lawsuit also says that contradictory to Meta’s policy which states that advertisers shouldn’t share sensitive information with Meta, including financial, health, and other information considered to be sensitive, the company is still knowingly collecting sensitive medical information from healthcare providers.

The Insider reports that Meta didn’t provide them with any comment on this case. But they noted that the with rising criticism surrounding Meta’s data practices, the company is supposedly creating a “basic ads” digital product that isn’t reliant on users’ sensitive data.

A Final Word 

Meta hasn’t published an official response to the lawsuit, nor have they responded to comments from multiple sources.

Will Meta be found guilty of wrongful data manipulation practices? we’ll have to wait and see how this case progresses from here. 

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