GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — North Carolina lawmakers and Attorney General Josh Stein are looking into possible privacy concerns with medical information.
Stein’s office, along with other state representatives, are conducting an investigation into a tracker using patients’ personal data. State Rep. Brian Farkas along with State Rep. Donnie Lambeth of Forsyth County wrote to the attorney general asking him to investigate when they became aware of the issue through a report called “The Markup.”
Farkas said the report showed that 22 of Newsweek’s top 100 hospitals use a tracker called Meta Pixel, which provides Facebook a packet of data when someone tries to schedule a doctor’s appointment through the online portal.
“It’s just, I think every North Carolinians deserves that access to privacy and care without having to worry about all of a sudden their advertising across their social media platforms is going to change and be a little too specific,” said Farkas.
Farkas said he hopes the investigation will lead to policy changes that will make sure there are clear lines when it comes to health care and privacy.
“We’ve got to, you know, make sure that no clear lines are drawn on what privacy means in North Carolina, and what patients should expect in this state. And frankly, I want us to be the leader in the nation as a state for personal protecting personal private information,” said Farkas.
ECU Health said they do not use the tracker, issuing the following statement:
“ECU Health is committed to protecting patient privacy and ensuring the integrity of sensitive health information. As part of this commitment, ECU Health does not utilitize data tracking tools like Meta Pixel on any of out patient portals.”
The report named Novant Health, which runs 14 medical centers in cities like Winston-Salem and Charlotte, as using the tracker. Other hospitals found to use Meta Pixel include Atrium Health, Wake Medical and Duke Hospital.
“It’s my understanding that some of these hospitals may be trying to make corrections very quickly, especially now that they know that the attorney general is taking a look. But I think you know, all in all, that we’ve just got to do what we can to protect,” said Farkas.
Stein’s office said they are very concerned and actively investigating, but could not comment at this time.
Farkas added, in the meantime, be very wary of where you are entering medical information and always ask questions.