On tens of thousands of pages across the Internet, Facebook has installed a convenient log-in button to help users more quickly access websites. However, this button also serves as a tool to gather user data. And according to a new report from The Markup, these Facebook tracking tools are installed on many hospital websites, gathering the sensitive medical data of patients and sending it back to the social media giant.
According to the report, 33 of Newsweek’s top 100 hospitals use this tracker, called the Meta Pixel, whenever a patient clicks a button to schedule a doctor’s appointment. Some of the information this tool can gather includes patients’ medical conditions, prescriptions, and doctor’s appointments. Of course, many medical experts and privacy advocates are justifiably upset by this practice, questioning whether it’s even legal under HIPAA law. To make matters worse, it’s doubtful that many, if any, patients know that it’s even happening.
“Almost any patient would be shocked to find out that Facebook is being provided an easy way to associate their prescriptions with their name,” health law policy expert Glenn Cohen told The Markup. “Even if perhaps there’s something in the legal architecture that permits this to be lawful, it’s totally outside the expectations of what patients think the health privacy laws are doing for them.”
Facebook has proven time and time again that it can get away with collecting a virtually unlimited amount of our data. However, this kind of ultra-sensitive information may be a bridge too far for lawmakers and the public alike.
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