In a controversial case last year, Meta placed the blame for scraping hospital data squarely on the shoulders of healthcare providers who deployed pixel analytics tools on their websites without considering potential third-party data sharing.
Late last week, a lawsuit filed in California federal court against the social media giant’s hospital website in a class-action lawsuit against Facebook for collecting data and violating the medical privacy of millions of patients is “missing the point.”
“It is the developer, not Meta, who ultimately controls the code on his own website and chooses what information to send,” according to the May 5 filing. The suit “attempts to distract the court from these points by detailing ways in which Meta encouraged businesses in the healthcare sector to use its commercial tools.”
The company argued that companies can use the Pixel device without sending health data to Meta, and that they can use the device in accordance with Meta’s terms. The company says it uses filtering tools to check pixel configurations and fix any problems that filter health data and alert the developer.
“There is nothing inherently illegal or harmful about the technology in this case,” Metha says.
“13 causes of action ranging from “wiretap” infringement to fraud to trespass” are inconsistent with the “Bagbag” complaint’s narrative of their claims. Namely, “the misuse of a publicly available device for certain health care providers to be held accountable” is meta.
In short, “meta doesn’t set or set” Pixels on vendor websites. Thus, their argument focuses on the purpose of meta-health data collection, which is “failure” and “weak objects for individual-driven fallacy theory.
The filing follows a year-long tirade against Meta over claims that the Pixel device allowed hospitals and healthcare providers to make health data more readily available to third-party companies. the needs of their users.
The lawsuit, filed in June 2021, alleges that Meta “knowingly collected patient information — including patient login information — from hundreds of medical providers in the U.S. and placed the Facebook pixel on their web properties.” The data is then supposedly monetized by the company by generating “highly profitable targeted advertising on and off Facebook.”
In the initial filing, the plaintiffs’ legal team identified at least 664 hospital system or medical provider websites where Pixel allegedly obtained health information for Facebook. But an April 2023 report found that nearly all hospital websites, including those tied to Facebook, Google and other tech companies, transmit patient data through tracking devices and cookies.
As reported by SC Media, vendors deploying these devices may not have been aware of the potential risks posed by Pixels or that the marketing team deployed them in the first place.
The Department of Health and Human Services has warned providers that using Pixel without a business partner’s consent violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The use of these devices seriously violates patient privacy, especially in cases where they lead to targeted advertising for specific health conditions.
Kaiser Permanente is the latest healthcare provider to be sued by a patient for using tracking devices. The health system giant has not issued a breach notice related to Pixel use. But the May 5 lawsuit charged that the code shared patients’ health data with Quantum Metrics, Twitter, Adobe, Bing and Google.
The information allegedly shared with these third parties includes “identifying information, researched medical subjects, preferences, shared information and communications with their medical providers, personally identifiable medical information and other confidential information and communications at the time this information is transferred.”
Like the Meta class action lawsuit, the lawsuit language also includes references to “wiretapping.”
As such, the court’s decision on Meta’s motion to dismiss could have a serious impact on dozens of lawsuits filed by Meta, Google and Pixel that have reported unintended disclosures.
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