Meta sued by patients for medical data breach

Meta will be sued across the Atlantic for breach of personal health information. In question, its Meta Pixel tool which collects patient data without their prior consent.

This is news that should not please Mark Zuckerberg. Meta, parent company of Facebook, and major American hospitals are the subject of a class action (legal action taken by a group of people who suffered the same harm) from patients whose personal health information was allegedly breached.

Ads targeting heart disease

In question, the Meta Pixel, a tracking tool that sends information to Facebook. This tracker can be installed on websites to provide analysis of Facebook advertisements. As it happens, a survey conducted in early June by The Markup found that 33 of the top 100 US hospitals use Meta Pixel on their sites. More so, the survey showed that the tool sends information about patients’ health status, doctor’s appointments and drug allergies to the social network.

For example, a patient claims her medical information was sent to Facebook because she received ads targeted at her heart and knee issues, according to the complaint. That same complaint claims that hospitals using Meta Pixel may have violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Indeed, health organizations must obtain patient consent to share health information with outside companies.

Meta says it requires hospitals to ask patients for permission to share their data before sending it to Facebook. However, the lawsuits allege that Meta placed its tool on health agency websites with the knowledge that it would collect personal health information that patients did not consent to sharing.

The class action patients must now be vetted by a judge before a trial can be considered. If the Menlo Park firm’s guilt is proven, it could result in damages on behalf of all Facebook users whose medical providers have used Meta Pixel.

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