Facebook Faces Lawsuit for Allegedly Collecting Private Health Data

June 21st, 2022 5:57 PM

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, faced a lawsuit after it was revealed the company used a tracking tool to obtain patient health information.

Reclaim the Net reported that the plaintiff, a patient who used the healthcare portal in Baltimore, sued the tech giant for invasion of privacy, violation of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, breach of contract, and more.

“Facebook breached its contractual promise…by not requiring its partners that are medical providers to obtain patient consent before sharing patient status and other data relating to online patient portal registration, logins, and logouts as well as appointment information with Facebook…” the complaint read.

The class-action suit asked for compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

NewsBusters reported that data taken by the company included a patient’s medical conditions, prescriptions, and medical appointments.

Experts warned the impact of the privacy violations could be severe.

“I am deeply troubled by what [the hospitals] are doing with the capture of their data and the sharing of it,” David Holtzman, a former senior privacy advisor in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, said according to The Markup. “I cannot say [sharing this data] is for certain a HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] violation. It is quite likely a HIPAA violation.”

While Meta itself is not subject to HIPAA, it is possible the tech giant collected the information for its own profit. 

“This is an extreme example of exactly how far the tentacles of Big Tech reach into what we think of as a protected data space,” Nicholas Price, a University of Michigan law professor, added according to The Markup. “I think this is creepy, problematic, and potentially illegal” from the hospitals’ point of view.”

While Meta did not release an official statement regarding the matter, company spokesperson Dale Hogan sent The Markup an email that paraphrased the company’s health data policy.

“If Meta’s signals filtering systems detect that a business is sending potentially sensitive health data from their app or website through their use of Meta Business Tools, which in some cases can happen in error, that potentially sensitive data will be removed before it can be stored in our ads systems,” Hogan wrote.

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