Meta suffers lawsuit for violating patient privacy with a screening tool - The Leamington Observer

Meta suffers lawsuit for violating patient privacy with a screening tool

Leamington Editorial 27th Sep, 2022 Updated: 27th Sep, 2022   0

TWO CLASS actions are being filed against Meta Platforms Inc, the parent company of Facebook, alleging that it tracked confidential patient data at some of the largest hospitals in the United States.

As reported by Bloomberg, the lawsuits were filed in California in June and July of this year over a tracking tool, Meta Pixel, used to collect analytics data from web pages and send it to Facebook.

The company is accused of using this tool on the websites of 33 of the 100 largest hospitals in the United States, collecting information from users without warning or authorisation.

The situation was even worse in seven of all hospitals – Meta Pixel had access to password-protected patient portals, sending data such as diagnoses, appointment times, and drug allergies directly to Facebook.




The discovery was made because some of the patients began to receive ads on their social network profiles with content clearly related to their medical history, such as offers for equipment and pills targeted to their health conditions.

A matter of privacy

While shocking, it is nothing new. In 2018, Facebook had already been accused of breaching confidential data in one of the biggest scandals in recent years.


At the time, the platform and the US company Cambridge Analytica was accused of using information from millions of users without proper consent to promote political propaganda in a multi-million dollar scheme.

Experts have since encouraged users to take matters into their own hands and take their privacy into their own hands.

But how to improve privacy on the internet?

To have a more private experience on the network, first of all, it is necessary to be careful with what you publish on social networks. As seen in the previous examples, platforms like Facebook are capable of inflicting enormous damage due to the volume of data they receive every day. So limiting sharing is one of the best strategies.

Likewise, investing in software which aims to increase the privacy of browsing data, such as virtual private networks (VPN), is an essential tactic to add an extra layer of protection to personal information on the internet.

After downloading a VPN for Android or other operating systems, users guarantee a cloak of encryption on all data traffic, making it impossible for unauthorised third parties to gain access to their online activities – including ISPs.

Another element often pointed out by cybersecurity experts is users’ passwords. One of the worst practices, in this matter, is the reuse of the same combination for several different accounts.

As these professionals teach, when there is a leak of credentials on the network (which is not uncommon), criminals always seek to apply the use of the leaked passwords on different platforms to see if they are successful. If the user uses the same password for all their profiles, hackers gain instant access to everything they do on the network.

Finally, there is also the issue of cookies and cache. These seemingly harmless browser items can be used to create a form of user identification and then be used to track all your internet activity silently.

That’s why many experts recommend, along with the use of a VPN, the regular cleaning of cookies and cache or the use of incognito mode in the browser, to maintain online privacy.

 

Summary

Scandals involving companies that handle personal data, in particular those linked to social media, will continue to pop up here and there. To protect themselves from these incidents, it’s up to users to sit in the front seat and take their privacy into their own hands.

The way to do this is to control the amount of information disclosed on the Internet (especially on social media), invest in digital security tools (such as VPNs), not reuse your passwords and, finally, clear your cookies and cache on their browsers.

With these simple measures, the privacy of your data will have a much better chance of being intact – even in the face of cases like the Meta Pixel.

 

Article written by Ulrike Neumann.

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