Hospital Accused of Sharing Private Patient Data with Facebook

A Washington State hospital has been accused of sharing its patients’ private data with social media giant Facebook.

The allegation is made in an emerging Seattle-based class-action lawsuit.

The suit condemns Overlake Hospital Medical Center, a major hospital, for allegedly sharing sensitive patient information with Facebook, its parent company Meta, and associated third parties.

The claim puts into question the ethical dimensions of little-known data-monitoring tools that could have devastating impacts.

The litigant, Jacq Nienaber, has accused Overlake Hospital Medical Center of effectively allowing Meta Pixel, and its Conversions Application Programming Interface, to act as a kind of surveillance within its infrastructure.

These marketing tools are commonly embedded in apps such as Facebook and Instagram to optimize advertisement delivery.

However, they have resulted in a significant breach of trust.

The new lawsuit argues that the intimate health secrets of hundreds of thousands of patients have potentially been siphoned off and shared.

The revelations came to light around the same time that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) highlighted the severe privacy risks around such prevalent tracking technologies.

The issue was raised in a joint advisory letter from the HHS and FTC to 130 hospitals and health app developers.

The warning stated that ill-guarded tracking tools such as Meta or Facebook Pixel and Google Analytics could lead to unwanted implications.

Those implications include identity theft and discrimination against unsuspecting consumers.

Nienaber’s lawsuit amplifies the cautionary approach of the agencies.

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It contends that Overlake Hospital not only used the surveillance widgets to increase profitability by encouraging patients to interact more with its digital health platform but also allowed Meta and associated marketers to violate patients’ confidentiality by illegally accessing their information.

This far-reaching access could permit third parties to derive knowledge about users’ specific medical conditions.

The data that was accessed exposed sensitive issues like cancer, pregnancy, HIV, and dementia, according to the lawsuit.

Nienaber’s lawsuit underscores that such risks are inherent in Overlake’s corporate ambition to “optimize the delivery of ads, measure cross-device conversions, create custom audiences, and decrease advertising and marketing costs.”

The Facebook Pixel, an unnecessary addition that has no bearing on the website’s functioning, arguably serves Overlake’s self-interests at the expense of its patients.

Bellevue-based Overlake allowed Meta to automatically and subtly access a wide range of patient details.

Those details included the specifics of their symptoms, treatments, and conditions.

READ MORE: Activists Complain Facebook’s Pro-Censorship App ‘Threads’ Isn’t Censoring Enough ‘Disinformation’

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By Frank Bergman

Frank Bergman is a political/economic journalist living on the east coast. Aside from news reporting, Bergman also conducts interviews with researchers and material experts and investigates influential individuals and organizations in the sociopolitical world.

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