The plaintiffs argue that the named health care organizations did not disclose their relationship with Facebook to users, including a Facebook plug-in on their websites, and the users did not consent to transmitting tracking information containing personally-identifying information to Facebook. The lawsuit specifically points to a chart Facebook uses to sell advertisements, which places more than 225 million users into 154 separate medical categories including pregnancy, cancer, diabetes, mental illness, and HIV/AIDs.
If the allegations are proven, the HIPAA covered entities could face a fine of between $100 and $50,000 for each violation with an aggregate cap of $1.5 million "for identical violations during a calendar year." Health care providers must be cognizant of hidden disclosures of protected health information, particularly in the vast depths of cyberspace, and institute appropriate safeguards to either prevent such disclosures or obtain the requisite consents prior to making them.
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