CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — An online tracking tool used by many hospitals has been collecting health information from patients and sending it to Facebook.
More than 30 hospitals are impacted, including Novant Health. The information released includes details about medical conditions and prescriptions.
“It’s horrible,” said Benjamin Morris, who was formerly in health care. “Most people don’t want their personal stuff out there.”
A tracking tool, the Meta Pixel, is used by dozens of hospitals across the country. It has been collecting sensitive health information from patients and sending it to Facebook.
“Certainly, I think you could make a legitimate case for a HIPPA violation,” said Charlotte Attorney Matthew Fleischman.
If you schedule a doctor’s appointment online, that information is collected and then connected to an IP address. Then, Facebook receives the data.
“In this situation, where you potentially have a third-party company or the medical provider themselves benefitting potentially financially by sharing this information without authorization or a HIPPA release, you certainly could have an actually valid case as an individual or a class of individuals against these providers,” Fleischman said.
It’s unclear whether Meta is profiting from the information received.
HIPPA laws prohibit the sharing of any medical information to any third parties, and even loved ones, without a release.
“It’s really wrong,” said Morris. “And whoever leaked it should be held responsible for it.”
Novant Health released the following statement:
“We take privacy and the care of patient information very seriously at Novant Health and we value the trust our patients place in us to keep their medical information private.
Approximately two years ago, we engaged a third-party vendor to help us develop and implement a campaign designed to encourage individuals to sign up for MyChart.
The goal of this endeavor was to get more people to take advantage of virtual care opportunities, especially since COVID was having a significant impact on how people preferred to receive care, as well as on our resources to provide in-person care.
We used tracking pixels to determine how many people signed up for MyChart, not what they did after they signed in.
When we were notified about this Meta Pixel, we immediately removed the pixel while we investigate the matter.
According to Facebook’s Terms and Conditions, they have policies and filters that block sensitive personal data.”
Patients say, though, they’ll think twice now before booking online.
“For sure,” said Chase Clark, who lives in Charlotte. “Yeah. That’s messed up. It’s personal information and that shouldn’t be done.”