A class action claims Cedars-Sinai Health System and subsidiary Cedars-Sinai Medical Center secretly transmit without consent and to numerous third parties the personal data of Cedars-Sinai.org visitors.
A proposed class action claims Cedars-Sinai Health System and subsidiary Cedars-Sinai Medical Center secretly transmit without consent and to numerous third parties the personal data of Cedars-Sinai.org visitors.
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The 49-page lawsuit alleges that, in “brazen violation of law,” the prominent Los Angeles healthcare organization—which sees more than a million patients a year—has embedded into its website several coded tracking tools that are “designed to facilitate eavesdropping” by third parties. Through these “real time wiretaps,” the defendants have transmitted patients’ private information and website interactions to third parties, including, but not limited to, Meta (Facebook), Google, Microsoft’s Bing, BroadcastMed and Marketo, the suit claims.
According to the complaint, the tracking code on Cedars-Sinai.org has allowed the third parties with whom patients’ data is shared to “target them with advertising by yet other, unrelated businesses.” The case alleges that although consumers reasonably believe Cedars-Sinai would appropriately keep their online communications private, the hospital has instead taken “the opposite course.”
“Cedars-Sinai’s goal in installing the tracking code[s] was not to provide any benefit to its patients but only to itself,” the case charges. “Cedars-Sinai installed the tracking code to obtain insight about how its patients and potential patients use its website.”
The organization’s website—through which patients can search for doctors, book appointments, peruse treatment options and more—makes use of several tracking pixels, the complaint explains. A tracking pixel is a piece of code that can be embedded into a business’s website in order to enable the code provider to capture and record visitor data and communications on a particular web page, the filing relays.
The lawsuit argues that by making use of tracking pixels, which can record every interaction a visitor makes on a website, Cedars-Sinai has unlawfully shared its patients’ private data with multiple unauthorized third parties without consent.
According to the suit, if a patient, for instance, visits the “Find a Doctor” section of Cedars-Sinai.org in order to schedule an appointment or search for a doctor, the tracking pixels can intercept and transfer large amounts of private information directly to the third parties, including the patient’s medical concerns, treatment details, data on the doctors searched, and COVID-19 information.
Per the case, Cedars-Sinai.org purportedly utilizes a Meta pixel—otherwise known as a Facebook tracking pixel—and Google Analytics code, which are both used to track online visitors’ interactions and collect personal data that allows third parties to link web activity to specific users. The defendants’ website also uses a Microsoft tracking tool called bat.bing and, in addition, purportedly shares patient communications with healthcare media company BroadcastMed and automated marketing group Marketo, the complaint alleges.
In July 2022, Cedars-Sinai purportedly removed the Meta pixel from its website, but the filing charges that “the harm has already been done.”
Patients like the plaintiff who shared their personal and sensitive information with the defendants via Cedars-Sinai.org did so under the assumption that the healthcare organization would properly maintain their privacy, the suit relays. Since having his private health information shared by the defendants, the Los Angeles-based plaintiff has seen a heightened number of medical-related ads—particularly regarding the condition about which he communicated on Cedars-Sinai.org, the case says.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone residing in California who accessed Cedars-Sinai.org at any time when tracking codes capable of transmitting data for marketing or website analytics purposes were present on the website.
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