Monday, September 18, 2023

Patients File Lawsuit Against Meta for Potential of Collecting Protected Health Information


Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is facing a lawsuit for their use of a tracking tool called Pixel.

Meta Platforms Inc. is facing a number of lawsuits from patients who allege that the company's Pixel tracking tool has been improperly used to collect their protected health information (PHI). The lawsuits allege that Meta and its healthcare clients have violated HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and state privacy laws by sharing PHI without the patients' knowledge or consent.

The lawsuits stem from allegations that Meta Pixel code has been embedded in the websites and patient portals of healthcare providers. This code allows Meta to collect information about patients' visits to the websites, such as the pages they view and the information they enter into forms. This information can be used to target patients with personalized advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuits allege that Meta and its healthcare clients have violated HIPAA by failing to protect PHI. HIPAA requires healthcare providers to take steps to safeguard PHI from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. This includes implementing technical safeguards to prevent unauthorized access to electronic health information (EHI). The plaintiffs allege that the use of Meta Pixel code on healthcare websites violates these safeguards by allowing Meta to access PHI without the patients' authorization.

It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit progresses and what comes out of it.  Private practitioners normally trust a third party to create their website(s) and normally this is a good idea simply because the office lacks the knowledge to create the site themselves.  Holding them responsible for code put in by the web designer or programmer is a difficult call.  While I'm a huge fan of protecting privacy it's also a hard call to make as this is an issue which most doctors would not have had the knowledge to be aware of.  I plan on making every effort to follow these lawsuits to see what decisions are made...

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