Facebook Deny Collecting Patient Data Through Hospital Appointment Apps


'Collecting data through online portals when patients book appointments is not something that we'd do'


Meta the company behind Facebook and Instagram is being sued over allegations that sensitive medical data is secretly shared with Facebook when patients access the portals of some healthcare providers.


The lawsuit focuses on a tracking tool called Pixel, owned by mea and secretly installed on phones and tablets when facebook is downloaded. The tool redirects patients’ private data, without consent, which is a violation of state and US federal laws, according to the lawsuit filed in a San Francisco federal court. The as yet unidentified complainant is proposing a class action on behalf of millions.


This week, news outlet The Markup published a report alleging that 33 of the hospitals in Newsweek’s top 100 hospitals use Pixel in the web portals. According to the lawsuit, at least 664 healthcare systems and providers use Pixel.


The plaintiff said he is a patient at a health-care facility in Baltimore and uses the facility’s portal to make appointments, communicate with providers, and review lab results. He is seeking punitive damages for invasion of privacy, violation of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, breach of contract, and multiple other violations.


Meta’s help centre page states: “If Meta’s signals filtering mechanism detects Business Tools data that it categorizes as potentially sensitive health-related data, the filtering mechanism is designed to prevent that data from being ingested into our ads ranking and optimization systems.” but tech experts have long since suggested that this is false or misleading.


The NHS App too is susceptible to third parties secretly seeing all your health data. Digitalheallth.net reported that The data protection impact assessment for the NHS contact-tracing app reveals “significant issues” that leave the app “falling short of data protection legislation”. Michael Veale, a lecturer in digital rights at University College London, examined the assessment and found it does not comply with UK law on anonymity and access to data.


At the time the App was launched NHS officials stated that the data was perfectly safe, and could not be seen by third parties. This was blatantly untrue. Pretty much the world and his wife could see all of your medical data via these apps; from Facebook and Google, who used it to tailor adverts to whatever ailment or illness you may be suffering from, to the government itself who used the data to profile you as a potential criminal or political opponent.


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