State lawmakers call for investigation into data privacy practices at major North Carolina hospitals

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 9:59 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - Two North Carolina lawmakers are calling on Attorney General Josh Stein to launch a formal investigation into the data privacy practices at hospitals across the state.

Earlier this month a nonprofit data-driven investigation company, The Markup, discovered hospitals across the country had a tracking tool installed on their website that was collecting patients’ sensitive health information. The information included medical conditions, prescriptions, and doctor’s appointments. According to the investigation, that information was eventually sent to Facebook.

The Markup tested the websites of 100 hospitals across the country. The tracker, called the Meta Pixel, was found on 33 of them and was sending Facebook a packet of data whenever a person clicked a button to schedule a doctor’s appointment.

That tracker was found on the websites of Duke University Hospital, Novant Health, and Wake Med.

In a letter sent to the attorney general, Reps. Brian Farkas (D-Pitt) and Reps. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) ask for a formal investigation into these practices to determine if any violations of state or federal consumer protection or privacy laws were made.

In addition to an investigation, the representatives requested that the Attorney General develop formal recommendations for statutory changes that would bolster patient data privacy protections.

The letter also states, “As advocates for a stronger health care system in our state, it is vital that we put patients first. Allowing our hospitals to act beyond their mandate and selling data for profit crosses both ethical and moral lines in putting North Carolinians first.”

Lawmakers ask AG to investigate major NC hospitals
Lawmakers ask AG to investigate major NC hospitals(Rep. Brian Farkas)

The 33 hospitals The Markup found sending patient appointment details to Facebook collectively reported more than 26 million patient admissions and outpatient visits in 2020, according to the most recent data available from the American Hospital Association.

The nonprofit agency says it was unable to determine whether Facebook used the data to target advertisements or profit in other ways.

Copyright 2022 WITN. All rights reserved.