University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Discloses Patient Health Information to Meta, Class Action Alleges
by Erin Shaak
Smidga v. Meta Platforms, Inc. et al.
Filed: August 25, 2022 ◆§ 2:22-cv-01231
Meta and UPMC face claims that a tracking code embedded on UPMC’s appointment scheduling webpage secretly shares users’ health information with Meta.
Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) have been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit that claims a tracking code embedded on UPMC’s appointment scheduling webpage secretly collects sensitive user medical information and shares the data with the social media platform.
According to the 39-page lawsuit, UPMC is comprised of 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient facilities, at which millions of patients schedule appointments through the healthcare system’s website. The case alleges, however, that when a user enters their information on UPMC’s appointment scheduling page, some of this data is surreptitiously shared with Meta for advertising purposes.
Per the suit, this data may include information about a user’s medical conditions, prescriptions, appointments, test results, diagnoses, allergies, sexual orientation, treatment status and reasons for requesting an appointment. Along with these details, UPMC’s website also passes along to Meta the user’s IP address and, in many cases, information linked to their Facebook account, which allows the social media giant to monetize the data by targeting users with advertising, the lawsuit alleges.
According to the suit, Meta and UPMC have collected these details without users’ knowledge or consent and have “recklessly disregarded patient privacy in order to maximize their own profits.”
The lawsuit relays that the defendants’ data collection activities are accomplished through the Meta pixel, a piece of code that advertisers embed in their websites to gather information about site visitors. Per the case, the pixel collects and sends “packets” of information, including users’ personally identifiable information, directly to Meta, who can use the data to connect a specific website visitor to their Facebook profile.
The suit shares that an investigation by The Markup in June 2022 found that the Meta pixel was embedded on the websites of 33 of Newsweek’s top 100 hospitals in the U.S. and had been secretly collecting patients’ sensitive health information and sharing it with Meta. Although Meta claims its system “is designed to filter out potentially sensitive data it detects,” the social media giant has also admitted that its filtering system is not completely accurate, the case says. Further, Meta engineers reportedly stated in a leaked document that the company essentially has no control over how the data it collects is used.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is an Allegheny County, Pennsylvania resident who says she entered sensitive and personal health information into UPMC’s appointment scheduling page when scheduling medical treatment. Unbeknownst to the plaintiff, the Meta pixel on UPMC’s webpage shared her sensitive information with the social media giant, and the plaintiff thereafter received advertisements on Facebook related to the medical symptoms she had reported when scheduling her UPMC appointments, the lawsuit says.
“As such, Meta and UPMC have used and published Plaintiff’s sensitive health information for their own profit,” the complaint scathes.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone in the United States whose personal information was collected through the Meta pixel.
Get class action lawsuit news sent to your inbox – sign up for ClassAction.org’s newsletter here.
Camp Lejeune residents now have the opportunity to claim compensation for harm suffered from contaminated water.
Read more here: Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Claims
Sign Up For
New cases and investigations, settlement deadlines, and news straight to your inbox.
Before commenting, please review our comment policy.