Facebook (now Meta) often remains under fire for violating data privacy and unlawful data aggregation for ad-targeting purposes. Recently, a case emerged where Facebook was serving ads for ‘miraculous treatments’ of critical illnesses. Last week, a lawsuit in the Northern District of California blamed the social media giant for accessing and misusing patient data collected from hospitals.
The lawsuit claims that Meta accessed and processed the patient’s data to serve targetted treatment and medicine ads. It was done without seeking the consent of patients to collect and process their data.
Meta loves data
Meta’s advertisement revenue tumbled after the introduction of anti-tracking measures on the Apple iPhone. That ended up costing billions in ad revenue. But it appears that Meta is in relentless pursuit of acquiring as much data as it can from sources that sadly now include hospitals too. The Business Insider report highlights that the hospitals used Meta’s Pixel tool to track patients’ data and then relay the information to Meta.
The biggest benefit that such personal data holds is platforms like Meta can use it to attract as many advertisers as possible. While it is unethical to do so, Meta continued to amass data from partnered hospitals and share it with advertisers to precisely target the patients. The Markup found out in its research that 33 of the top 100 hospitals in America use the Meta Pixel.
That number is astonishing because big hospitals usually have web portals and apps to register a patient and store their medical history. Meta’s Pixel tool is just a single line of tracking code that can be inserted onto these websites. Every action that a patient makes on the website, including inputting information while filling out forms is tracked.
The lawsuit highlights the case of one patient who started seeing targeted ads for medication related to heart and knee conditions. She previously entered her symptoms at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center website.