A proposed class action claims that MemorialCare Medical Group, the biggest healthcare system in Orange County, California and operator of MemorialCare.org, secretly transmits website visitors’ personal data to Facebook without consent.
According to the 28-page complaint, MemorialCare ran afoul of California privacy laws by “surreptitiously track[ing], record[ing], and disclos[ing]” to Facebook its patients’ personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI) gathered from confidential interactions with its website.
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MemorialCare’s website—which allows patients to search for health care providers, book appointments, compare treatment options and chat directly with medical professionals—makes use of a Facebook tracking pixel, the case relays. A tracking pixel is a piece of code that businesses embed into their websites to permit Facebook to track and collect visitor data and movements on their pages, the complaint explains.
The filing alleges that through the use of a Facebook tracking pixel—which can record every action a user takes on MemorialCare.org—the defendant has unlawfully tracked, recorded, and transmitted its patients’ personal and protected information to an unauthorized third party without consent.
For instance, when a patient searches for and chooses a doctor on the “Find a Provider” section of MemorialCare.org or books an appointment, the Facebook pixel can track and disclose a plethora of sensitive information, including details about medical conditions, medical concerns, treatments sought, appointments with specific doctors, doctors’ medical specialties and patient COVID-19 information, the lawsuit alleges.
MemorialCare’s alleged transmissions also included such sensitive information as “patients’ IP addresses, physical locations, and unique and persistent Facebook ID,” the complaint claims. The filing explains that Facebook IDs can be used to identify users’ Facebook profiles and access all the public information appearing on their personal pages. By disclosing patients’ Facebook IDs, the defendant thereby supplies enough data to link an individual to their online interactions and preferences, the lawsuit contends.
The plaintiff, a California resident, has used MemorialCare.org many times between 2016 and 2021 to research healthcare providers, the case says. Like other visitors, she did not consent to any transmission of her private health information to an unauthorized third party, according to the case. Nevertheless, MemorialCare “knowingly disclosed” this protected data, the suit alleges.
According to the complaint, MemorialCare owns and operates MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center as well as a large network of hospitals and centers for research, primary and outpatient care, surgery, and specialty care. The lawsuit emphasizes that MemorialCare treats up to 1,059,713 patients a year, based on the defendant’s own 2021 estimate.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone residing in California whose personally identifiable information or protected health information was disclosed to Facebook without consent through the use of a tracking tool and in connection with visiting MemorialCare.org during the applicable statute of limitations.
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