Attorneys Advise Caution Following Judge’s Narrowing Allowable Use of Pixels

HIPAA-regulated health care organizations should take a cautious approach to their use of web-tracking technologies—known as pixels—in the wake of a federal judge’s ruling that HIPAA does not bar health care organizations from using those web trackers on their public-facing websites, attorneys warn.

In June, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman granted a motion for summary judgment from the American Hospital Association (AHA) to vacate part of the HHS Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) most recent guidance on the tracking technologies. Pittman ruled that OCR had unlawfully exceeded “HIPAA’s unambiguous text” by prohibiting covered entities (CEs) and business associates (BAs) from using web-tracking technologies under certain circumstances on their public web pages.[1]

But while this ruling might appear to free up health care organizations to digitally track website visitors with abandon, pixel use still carries multiple risks, said a group of BakerHostetler privacy attorneys.

“Tell your marketing department to settle down,” the BakerHostetler attorneys wrote. “The ruling is a win, but still a narrow one.”[2]

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