Similar proposed class action lawsuits were recently filed at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco and at Dignity Health and MedStar Health System in Baltimore over the use of Meta Pixel.
In the Northwestern Memorial case, Michael Krackenberger, a Skokie resident and Northwestern patient, is the only person named so far in the proposed class action lawsuit, but according to the complaint, potentially tens of thousands of people could qualify for the class action lawsuit.
Krackenberger was aware of the relationship between Northwestern Memorial and Meta Pixel from a June article published in The Markup and co-published with Stat. The article revealed that dozens of hospitals across the country allow Meta Pixel to access patient data. Northwestern Memorial was listed in the article alongside other providers such as Johns Hopkins Hospital, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. According to The Markup’s article, Edward-Elmhurst Health of Naperville also used Meta Pixel, but removed it after being contacted by the publication.
Northwestern Memorial’s Chief Media Relations Executive Chris King defended the use of Meta Pixel, commenting to The Markup: “Use of this type of code has been reviewed and is noted in the NM.org Terms of Service.”
“They may have assumed that just by disclosing that the tracker was there, they could allow their patients to use the portal and not face liability,” said Nick Wooten, another attorney representing the plaintiffs at Northwestern Memorial and Head of Consumer Law at DC Law in Austin, Texas.
The complaint alleges that the conduct of the hospital and Meta encroached on the privacy of the plaintiff and the alleged class, while also violating the federal Wiretapping Act, the Stored Communications Act and other privacy laws.
The proposed course includes all individuals who have used Northwestern Memorial’s patient portal in the past two years. Wooten said it’s too early to tell the value of the class damage, but the lawsuit says it will exceed $5 million.
“We’ll get a better idea of what that number looks like once we get a better handle on the total number of people affected,” says Wooten.