Google faces a proposed class action over its alleged use of tracking tools on healthcare provider websites—including PlannedParenthood.org—and apps to secretly collect consumers’ sensitive health and personal information.
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The 30-page lawsuit claims the tech giant’s tracking technology, which includes Google Analytics, software development kits, tracking pixels and cookies, has, unbeknownst to consumers, been incorporated on “the vast majority” of healthcare provider websites via a small piece of back-end code.
These tools intercept consumers’ interactions as they navigate each webpage, providing Google with a “treasure trove” of private data about medical conditions, treatments, appointments and personally identifiable information, the case alleges.
Google uses this data to improve its ad-targeting capabilities and provide marketing and analytics services, helping the company earn hundreds of billions of dollars in advertising revenue each year, the complaint contends.
The pseudonymous plaintiff, a California resident who the suit says searched for an abortion appointment on PlannedParenthood.org in 2018, contests that she reasonably expected that her interactions with the website would be confidential. However, the case relays that an investigation by Lockdown Privacy revealed that Google’s tracking technology intercepts the following information when consumers visit Planned Parenthood’s website:
“[T]he user’s IP address, the site visited, behavior on the site, reason for visiting the site (e.g., ‘abortion’), the user’s selected method of abortion (e.g., surgical abortion/in-clinic), the browser time zone, the name of the Planned Parenthood Health Center for the appointment, the user’s approximate zip code, the user’s closest Planned Parenthood affiliate based on their zip code, a time stamp, whether the user came from a search engine, a link, or typed the URL directly, the user’s Client ID, and the browser language.”
According to the suit, Google’s tracking tools are incorporated on the websites of other major hospitals and medical centers, including Keck Medicine of USC, MemorialCare: Long Beach Medical Center and Sharp HealthCare.
“Google’s unlawful interception of Plaintiff’s and Class members’ communications with healthcare provider websites constitutes an extreme invasion of privacy and violates federal and state statutory and common law,” the filing says.
The lawsuit looks to cover anyone in the United States and its territories whose health information or other sensitive data was intercepted by, or disclosed to, Google through the company’s tracking technology on health-based apps or websites.
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