Meta Video Pixel Tool Sparks New Privacy Concerns

Meta Video Pixel Tool Sparks New Privacy Concerns

While Meta’s Pixel Tool, described as a “snippet of JavaScript code that allows you to track visitor activity on your website”, has already been linked to a number of data privacy concerns in the past few months, these mounting concerns have only continued to grow in recent weeks. To this end, while this Pixel tool was initially alleged to have violated the patient privacy that U.S. citizens are afforded under the provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), more recent claims are instead related to video data.

More specifically, “At least 47 proposed class actions filed since February claim that Meta Platforms Inc.’s Pixel tracking tool sent the plaintiffs’ personal video consumption data from online platforms to Facebook without their consent, violating the federal Video Privacy Protection Act, a Bloomberg Law analysis of court dockets found. Almost half of the new cases (22) were filed in September alone. Five cases have been voluntarily dismissed.” To this last point, there were more video privacy lawsuits filed within the U.S. during the month of September 2022 than in any of the other previous months combined.

Video data privacy

While many consumers will think about personal data in terms of social security numbers, financial account credentials, and email addresses, among other pertinent information, the tracking data that is collected when an individual watches a video using a social networking platform such as Youtube also constitutes personal data. Subsequently, in lieu of a federal data protection law, businesses such as Meta have effectively been able to collect a trove of personal information regarding the millions of users that will be watching video content online on a daily basis.

What’s more, the level to which Meta, in addition to the numerous other social media companies that all fall under its umbrella, including Snapchat and Instagram, has been integrated into mainstream social media has made it extremely difficult for government officials and lawmakers to regulate the actions of Meta. To illustrate this point further, even major professional sports leagues such as the National Football League (NFL) have been hit with lawsuits in relation to the misappropriate use of Meta’s Pixel tool.

Last month, “ subscriber Israel James of Illinois sued the league in Chicago federal court Wednesday seeking to represent hundreds of thousands of other subscribers of the website in a class action.” Much like the other dozens of lawsuits that were filed against Meta last month, the lawsuit that Israel James filed against the social media company contends that the Meta Pixel tool that had been installed in conjunction with served to steal the personal information of the NFL fans that frequented the website when looking to watch football highlights, check game scores, purchase memorabilia, etc.

Data tracking concerns

With all this being said, the multiple lawsuits that have been filed against Meta in the last month underscore a growing concern around the world as it relates to tracking the activities of consumers, be it in the form of geolocation data or the online behavior that a user exhibits when browsing the internet. On the one hand, advertisers relish this information as it can serve to make their jobs that much easier, as sending targeted advertisements to a consumer that has already expressed a certain level of interest regarding a specific product is much more cost-efficient than other approaches.

However, these business practices come at the expense of the American consumer, as this information is collected from individuals without their consent under many circumstances. To take it a step further, Meta has publically stated that the company generates a large number of its profits from advertising, and this advertising is done in accordance with the personal information of the millions of users that take advantage of Meta’s bevy of digital products and services. Consequently, the loss of this personal information would likely deal a damaging blow to Meta’s current business model.

While many of the accusations that have been imposed against businesses around the U.S. with respect to Meta’s Javascript Pixel Tool have yet to be conclusively proven in a court of law, it is clear that the tool is functioning in a manner that is inconsistent within the ways in which it has been advertised to the general public. Moreover, given Meta’s own history as it pertains to personal privacy and data protection, they have undoubtedly earned a reputation for failing to safeguard the personal information of their customers, regardless of the specific tools and features that the company has in place at any given time.

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