A U.S. federal judge has ruled that Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook) must face a lawsuit accusing it of violating the medical privacy of patients treated by healthcare providers using its Meta Pixel tracking tool.
Allegations and Claims
The plaintiffs allege that Meta Pixel provided sensitive health information to Meta when users logged into patient portals containing the tracking tool, enabling Meta to profit from targeted advertising. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for all Facebook users whose health information has obtained by Meta.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco allowed the plaintiffs to pursue claims that Meta violated federal wiretap and California privacy laws, as well as its own contractual commitments regarding user privacy on Facebook. The judge dismissed some other claims but left open the possibility for the plaintiffs to amend and refile them.
Judge Orrick found that, based on the evidence presented, there plausible allegations that sensitive healthcare information has intentionally captured and transmitted to Meta. He noted that it has unclear whether Meta had taken sufficient steps to prevent the transmission of patient details or if it could excused because healthcare providers had consented to it. Additionally, he found that transmitting such information may have been necessary for Meta’s advertising services.
Meta had sought dismissal, arguing that it was ultimately up to healthcare providers to decide how to use Meta Pixel. The company acknowledged the potential seriousness of sending sensitive health information but maintained that its technology itself was not inherently harmful or unlawful.
Neither Meta nor the plaintiffs’ lawyers immediately responded to requests for comment.
The case is titled “In re Meta Pixel Healthcare Litigation” and is in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, with case number 22-03580.