HIPAA rules require that all medical facilities, including hospitals and private practices, make every effort to protect patient information. The rules also expressly stipulate how patient data can and cannot be shared. Is Facebook violating those rules with the help of hospital websites? A lawsuit filed against Facebook’s parent company, Meta, seems to suggest as much.
The lawsuit singles out Meta and its well-known Pixel tracking tool. This tool can be installed on just about any website for the purposes of harvesting information and sending it back to Facebook. Once in Facebook’s hands, it can be used for any number of marketing purposes. Facebook can even sell the information to healthcare marketers.
Some thirty-three hospitals use Facebook Pixel to track and distribute patient information in violation of federal law, according to the lawsuit. In addition, more than 660 medical providers are accused of receiving information collected by Facebook Pixel.
The Myth of Internet Privacy
The lawsuit against Meta is disturbing on its face. Unfortunately, it probably only scratches the surface of what is truly going on out there. It is evidence that the idea of internet privacy is really just a myth. So much data is being collected by so many entities that it’s impossible to cover your tracks if you spend any time online. This may be uncomfortable to a certain segment of society, but it is the truth.
If you are not convinced of it, type your own name into Google. Just be prepared to see a number of websites that list you by name along with addresses you have lived at, phone numbers you have had, and so forth. Even more scary is the fact that some of the sites contain inaccurate information that could be harmful to your reputation.
Without getting into details, I have a rather unusual name. I share my name with a much younger man who lives more than 1,000 miles away from me. A few years ago, he was arrested and charged with a felony. He was eventually convicted. If I type my name into Google, some inaccurate databases connect me with the other guy. He is the one with the criminal record, but that record gets assigned to me.
Sensitive Healthcare Information
Any sort of information breach is unacceptable. However, breaches are especially concerning within healthcare because of the sensitive nature of the information. In a healthcare setting, collected data includes more than names, addresses, and phone numbers.
Healthcare databases store sensitive information about a person’s health history. They store information about test results, prescription medications, diagnoses, etc. It is a ton of information that can be used to steal a person’s identity, commit blackmail, and do countless other things.
Data Must Be Protected
The bottom line is that healthcare data must be protected at all costs. Even a medical marketing company iMedical Data, an outfit that specializes in collecting and analyzing qualified, first-party data for healthcare companies, has a responsibility to make sure that breaches never occur. They need to protect against unauthorized access as well as issues like Facebook’s Pixel sharing information illegally.
The lawsuit against Meta will ultimately determine if Facebook has broken the law. If that is the case, severely punitive action must be taken against the company. It is time we put an end to Big Tech gathering, compiling, and selling our information for their own gain. Otherwise, we become slaves to an internet that no longer serves us – but compels us to serve it.
Some of us are looking forward to the outcome of the Facebook lawsuit. Perhaps it will reveal what so many have suspected all along.