Similar proposed class-action lawsuits have recently been filed over the use of Meta Pixel at San Francisco-based UCSF Medical Center and Dignity Health, and Baltimore’s Medstar Health System.
In the Northwestern Memorial case, Michael Krackenberger, a Skokie resident and Northwestern patient, is the only individual listed on the proposed class-action suit so far, but potentially tens of thousands of people could qualify for the class, according to the complaint.
Krackenberger was aware of the relationship Northwestern Memorial had with Meta Pixel from a June article published in The Markup, which revealed that dozens of hospitals throughout the country allow Meta Pixel to access patient data. Northwestern Memorial was among other providers, such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, UCLA Reagan Medical Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital, listed in the article. According to The Markup article, Naperville-based Edward-Elmhurst Health also used Meta Pixel but removed it after being contacted by the publication.
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Defending its use of Meta Pixel, Northwestern Memorial’s Chief Media Relations Executive Chris King told The Markup: “The use of this type of code was vetted and is referenced in NM.org’s terms and conditions.”
“They may have been operating under the assumption that just by disclosing that the tracker was there that they could then allow their patients to use the portal and they would not have any liability,” says Nick Wooten, another attorney representing plaintiffs in the Northwestern Memorial suit and the head of consumer law at Austin, Texas-based DC LAW.
The complaint alleges the hospital and Meta's conduct invaded the privacy of the plaintiff and the purported class while also violating the Federal Wiretap Act, the Stored Communication Act and other privacy laws.
The proposed class includes any person who used Northwestern Memorial’s patient portal within the last two years. Wooten said it is too early to tell the value of the class damages, but the complaint says it will exceed $5 million.
“We will formulate a better idea of what that number looks like once we have a better handle on the total number of people who’ve been impacted,” Wooten says.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's Chicago Business.