US judge rules that Meta should face a lawsuit over medical privacy violations

A US court allows a lawsuit against Meta for collecting health data without consent, alleging violations of wiretap and privacy laws.

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A US federal court has ruled that Meta Platforms Inc. should face a lawsuit alleging that it collected patients’ health information without consent. US District Judge William Orrick ruled that the plaintiffs could pursue claims that Meta violated a federal wiretap law, a California privacy law, and Facebook’s own policies about user privacy.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs claim that they had found at least 664 hospitals and other healthcare providers using Meta Pixel when the case began in June 2020. According to the plaintiffs, by installing the Meta Pixel tracking tool on their healthcare providers’ patient portals, Meta intercepted people’s health information through Facebook accounts. Meta then profited from the data it intercepted by using it to serve targeted advertising to users.

In seeking to dismiss the case, Meta said it “does not disagree” that transmitting sensitive health information could be a severe problem. But it also said its technology was not inherently harmful or illegal, and it was up to healthcare providers to decide how to use Meta Pixel.

Judge Orrick stated that it was unclear whether Meta had done enough to stop the patient data from being shared or whether it was excused because the providers consented. Judge Orrick also found that there were ‘detailed and plausible allegations’ that the transfer of such information was necessary for Meta’s advertising services.