Many hospitals have a so-called Metapixel on their site, which collects data for Meta, the parent company of Facebook. This technology website writes The Markup based on its own research in the top 100 hospitals in the United States.
When patients pressed a button to make an appointment with their doctor, the site sent information to Meta. This information, in turn, was linked to the patient’s personal IP address. This IP address says something about where you live roughly, even though the IP address can’t say exactly where you are.
Refer information about the disease
The type of data sent by the pixel varies for each site. For example, a hospital in Cleveland Meta reported the name of the patient’s doctor and the search term used to find the doctor.
Other sites, for example, quoted the name of the condition for which someone was seeking treatment. A number of hospital websites even have a pixel built into their patient portal, where they share details about medication use, allergies, and doctor appointments.
For the research, The Markup used information from Pixel Hunt, an initiative where users can voluntarily install add-ons to check if the site contains Metapixel and what exactly Pixel collects. Markup notified hospitals of the privacy issue. Not all sites have removed their Metapixels yet.
Just as in Europe, it is illegal in the United States for medical authorities to share patients’ personal information with third parties. Hospitals seem to have made no attempt to obtain patient consent for this transmission of information.
Since 2020, Meta has a system for filtering health information from its dataset. However, according to a leaked document, the company is facing great difficulties in gaining insight into the type of data its own systems store, making it uncertain whether this type of sensitive information can be removed.
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