American hospitals send important information to Facebook

Many hospitals call their site Metapixel, which collects data for Facebook’s parent company, Meta. That Writes The technology site The Markup is based on its own research on the 100 most important hospitals in the United States.

When patients pressed a button to see their doctor, the site sent the information to the meta. That information is linked to the patient’s personal IP address. Such an IP address says something about where you live, although an IP cannot specify where you are.

Sent information about the disease

What kind of data the pixel transmitted is different for a site. For example, a hospital in Cleveland told Meta the patient’s doctor’s name and the search term used to find the doctor.

Other sites, for example, state the name of the condition for which someone is receiving treatment. Many hospital sites have pixel embedded in the patient’s portal, sharing details about medication use, allergies and doctor’s appointments.

Research in metapixels

For research, The Markup used information from Pixel Hunt, which allows users to voluntarily install extensions that verify that a site has Metapixel and that Pixel collects exactly that. Markup has reported the issue to hospitals. Not all sites have removed metapixels yet.

In the United States, as in Europe, it is illegal for medical authorities to share patients’ personal information with third parties. Hospitals make no effort to obtain patient approval for this information exchange.

Since 2020, Meta has a system to filter health information from its database. However, according to a leaked document, the company faces great difficulties in gaining insight into what kind of data its own systems store, which makes it uncertain whether this type of sensitive information can be removed.

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