Meta faces Senate scrutiny over Meta Pixel health data collection and use

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Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee member Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) has called for Facebook parent Meta to be held accountable for the health care information he gathered following of the use of the Meta Pixel in the main hospitals. websites as an ad tracking tool. During a hearing, Chris Cox, Product Manager of Meta, was asked about Meta owning and using the data and replied, “Not to my knowledge.” According to this latest report from markupCox will follow up with a written response to the committee.

The June survey conducted by markup and STAT [TTA 17 June] investigated how these code snippets, commonly used by developers to track website performance, could send highly sensitive patient information to Facebook via online appointment schedulers and patient portals. As we noted in the article, “None of the hospitals using the Pixel have patient consent forms allowing the transmission of individual patient information, nor Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) that allow the collection of this data. Facebook’s defense is that it does not use this information in an identifiable way.

Developments have evolved rapidly since then. According markup, 28 of the 33 hospitals in the original report removed the Meta Pixel from their appointment schedulers or blocked it from sending patient information to Facebook. At least six of the seven health systems had also removed the pixels from their patient portals. In August, Novant Health notified patients of a code misconfiguration in their Meta Pixel tracker that could lead to the unauthorized disclosure of their personal health information (PHI) [TTA 19 Aug]. The North Carolina attorney general may investigate. Five class action lawsuits have been filed by patients, including against Novant and Medstar [TTA 23 June].

Meta may have trouble explaining to Senator Ossoff how data flows and is used for a given account, based on their own internal engineers’ assessments in a leaked 2021 privacy memo. But given the influence of Meta and its founder in the federal government, one wonders how far this will all go. Your editor is not optimistic. TTA articles on Meta Pixel

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