Social media platform Facebook has been using its advertising tools to collect the personal information of users who have sought out information regarding termination of pregnancy, an investigation by Reveal has shown.
Based on the results of the research held by Reveal, alongside non-profit group, The Markup, it was found that several abortion clinics used Facebook’s tracking system, Meta Pixel, on their websites. Pixel allows companies to purchase ads on the platform and target people who have visited their website in the past.
This would be a serious breach of Facebook’s parent company Meta’s own internal terms & conditions as the company claims that Meta Pixel isn’t meant to collect data on sensitive personal information such as a user’s medical history.
However, as the report showed, over a third of these websites sent data to Facebook when people made an appointment, whether that was for an “abortion consultation” or a “pre-termination screening”. In other words, when the system saw those words put together, it immediately “reported” back to Facebook, providing sensitive information such as the patient’s name, email and phone number.
The report goes on to say that these clinics can choose whether they want to add Meta Pixel on their websites or not, with The Markup finding that in 2020, 30 percent of the 80,000 most popular websites across the world had the ad tracker installed.
Meta responded to the report via a statement sent to Reveal that denied the accusations: “It is against our policies for websites and apps to send sensitive information about people through our Business Tools,” referring to the Meta Pixel. “Our system is designed to filter out potentially sensitive data it detects, and we work to educate advertisers on how to properly set up our Business Tools.”
The issue of people’s data regarding abortion being misused has been given a new sense of urgency recently and especially in the US, where there’s a lot of speculation about the act being made illegal in several states across the country. This rumour has gained a significant amount of traction after the leak of a draft of a Supreme Court opinion.
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