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Hospitals around the country are facing meta pixel class action lawsuits after a news investigation revealed that hundreds of hospitals and medical practices shared private patient data with technology company Meta. 

An article from The Markup from last June found that many hospitals use Meta Pixel, a Javascript data-gathering tool that tells companies how visitors use their websites. The feature is designed to help organizations make targeted improvements to their websites, but the Pixel captured sensitive information and sent it to Meta. Patients who used hospital websites weren’t aware that medical providers might share their data with a third-party service.

The law firms of Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC, Ahmad, Zavitsanos, & Mensing, P.C., and Kelly & Townsend, LLC represent plaintiffs in class action lawsuits against LCMC Health System and Willis-Knighton Health System. These two Louisiana healthcare systems used the Meta Pixel on their websites and allegedly provided patient data to third parties.

How a Tracking Pixel Is Used In Online Health Tools

Online portals offer an efficient way for health systems to communicate with patients, collect information and payment, and schedule appointments. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients and providers relied on technology more than ever before, and many medical providers invested money into their websites in hopes of streamlining communication. Patients can use these websites to learn more about doctors and make appointments.

A tracking pixel is a tool placed directly on a website that allows developers to learn more about visitors. The Meta Pixel is designed to help make Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns more effective. It’s not visible to a web user, and most individuals will never realize it’s there. Tracking pixels capture an IP address, a unique number that identifies the location of a network device. Pixels can also track other valuable information for advertising campaigns, like which type of browser someone is using and whether they’re accessing a website from a mobile phone or desktop.

Hospitals offer notices of privacy practices on their websites detailing the information they collect and how they use it. Notably, the plaintiffs suing the Louisiana health systems in these class action lawsuits say these privacy notices didn’t say that the Meta Pixel was capturing health information and sending it to Facebook.

Some of the patients allege that Meta used the data collected from the Pixel when choosing which advertisements to show them. The Pixel is designed to make advertisement targeting more precise, and several people say they were shown advertisements related to their protected health information. Someone who disclosed a cancer diagnosis on a health system website might receive advertisements for cancer treatment, for example. In one case, a patient said she began receiving targeted ads about joint pain and heart disease after entering her information on a medical center website. 

Additionally, the Meta Pixel made healthcare systems susceptible to data breaches. Last August, healthcare company Novant Health announced that more than a million patients had their private information captured by the Pixel because of a configuration error. Some data collected included email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, emergency contact details, appointment time and date, and doctor information. 

People affected by the data breaches are suing the health systems involved. In some cases, Meta is also listed as a defendant. The investigation from The Markup found that 33 of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. used the tool without patient consent, including world-renowned health centers.

If you’ve accessed the LCMC Health System and/or Willis-Knighton Health System website and wonder whether your data has been compromised, call Herman, Herman & Katz today to discuss your legal options. You can reach us at 844-943-7626 or online.

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