Meta Platforms Must Face Medical Privacy Class Action

Meta Platforms Must Face Medical Privacy Class Action – A federal judge in the United States has ruled that Meta Platforms (META.O) must confront a lawsuit alleging its infringement of the medical privacy rights of patients treated by healthcare providers utilizing its Meta Pixel tracking tool. U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco has allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with allegations that Meta breached federal wiretap and California privacy laws, as well as its own contractual commitments regarding user privacy on Facebook.

In a 26-page decision on Thursday, the judge said the case, based on the evidence so far, “does not negate the plausible allegations that sensitive healthcare information is intentionally captured and transmitted to Meta.” Orrick rejected certain claims but allowed the plaintiffs, who were using pseudonyms such as John Doe and Jane Doe, the opportunity to amend and refile them. 

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As per the plaintiffs, Meta Pixel shared their health-related data with Meta when they accessed patient portals containing the tracking tool, allowing Meta to profit from targeted ads. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation for all Facebook users whose health information Meta obtained. Neither Meta nor attorneys representing the California-based company provided immediate comments on Friday, and the plaintiffs’ lawyers also did not respond promptly to similar requests.

When the litigation began in June 2020, lawyers for one plaintiff said they had found at least 664 hospitals and other healthcare providers that used Meta Pixel. In seeking a dismissal, Meta said it “does not disagree” that sending sensitive health information could be a serious problem. Nonetheless, the court’s decision also emphasized that the technology employed by Meta Pixel was not inherently harmful or unlawful. 

It underscored that the responsibility for determining the appropriate use of Meta Pixel rested with healthcare providers themselves. However, Judge Orrick raised crucial questions concerning whether Meta had taken sufficient measures to prevent the transmission of patient details or if they could be excused due to the consent given by healthcare providers. 

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Furthermore, he acknowledged the presence of detailed and plausible allegations suggesting that the transmission of such information was a necessary component of Meta’s advertising services. The legal case in question is officially titled In re Meta Pixel Healthcare Litigation and is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, bearing the case number No. 22-03580.

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