Northwestern Memorial Hospital Secretly Disclosed Patients’ Medical Info to Meta, Class Action Alleges
by Erin Shaak
Krackenberger v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital et al.
Filed: October 13, 2022 ◆§ 4:22-cv-06020
A lawsuit claims a tracking code embedded in Northwestern Memorial’s patient portal unlawfully shares consumers’ sensitive medical information with Meta Platforms.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Meta Platforms have been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit that claims a tracking code embedded in the hospital’s patient portal unlawfully shares consumers’ sensitive medical information with Facebook and Instagram.
According to the 18-page case, the Chicago hospital requires patients to schedule appointments and manage their accounts through an online portal. Unbeknownst to patients, however, Northwestern has allegedly installed in the portal a piece of computer code known as the Meta Pixel that, according to the suit, is designed to gather information about users for the benefit of Facebook and Instagram, subsidiaries of Meta Platforms.
The case alleges that Northwestern and Meta, and thus Facebook and Instagram, have violated state and federal privacy laws by “surreptitiously” collecting and sharing patients’ highly sensitive medical information without their knowledge or consent and for the social media giant’s benefit.
Northwestern Memorial patients are required to use the hospital’s portal in order to interact with medical providers, schedule appointments, access medical records, request prescription refills and “for other medically sensitive purposes,” the filing says. The lawsuit argues that patients were “unable to avoid” having their medical information tracked and disclosed by the Meta pixel embedded in the hospital’s portal.
Per the case, Facebook and Instagram utilize patients’ information “for their own profit,” including by republishing it to third parties and using it for targeted advertising.
The plaintiff in the suit is a Northwestern Memorial patient who says he was required to create a patient account and use the hospital’s patient portal, which was allegedly represented as “secure and confidential.” According to the complaint, Facebook and Instagram have collected and published the plaintiff’s medical information for their own profit and without the man’s knowledge or consent.
The plaintiff says he found out that Northwestern Memorial had allowed the Meta Pixel to access its patient portal after reading an article published by the Markup on June 16, 2022.
The lawsuit looks to cover all patients of Northwestern Memorial Hospital who used the hospital’s patient portal at any time within the past two years.
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