A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against a Seattle-area hospital, alleging that it permitted Facebook’s online tracking tools to integrate with its website, resulting in the sharing of personal health data of hundreds of thousands of individuals with Meta and other third parties.
The plaintiff, Jacq Nienaber, claims that Meta Pixel and the Conversions Application Programming Interface, often used for marketing purposes, were present in Overlake Hospital Medical Center’s systems, acting as a “wiretap.” The lawsuit contends that code embedded in numerous web pages allowed Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to collect patient information through discussions with doctors and online health service requests.
In response to the lawsuit, Facebook did not provide a comment, while Overlake’s spokesperson, Ryan Hodges, stated that the hospital’s legal team was not informed of the lawsuit and would need more information before responding.
The lawsuit mirrors concerns highlighted in a joint letter by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which warned healthcare providers about the serious privacy and security risks associated with website and mobile app tracking technologies, including the Meta/Facebook pixel. Such technologies can gather identifiable user information, potentially leading to significant repercussions like identity theft and discrimination.
The lawsuit further asserts that sharing information with Facebook could enable Meta and third-party marketers to ascertain specific patient details, raising concerns about confidentiality.
It also accuses Overlake of deliberately promoting digital healthcare platforms to enhance profitability through tracking technologies, such as the Meta Pixel. The lawsuit highlights the potential consequences of these tracking tools, suggesting that they surreptitiously allowed Facebook to access a range of information shared by class action members, including interactions with the hospital’s website and health-related searches.