A Planned Parenthood patient is asking a federal judge to issue an order prohibiting Google from collecting sensitive medical data from healthcare providers, and requiring the company to delete any information it may have previously collected from healthcare sites.
In a motion filed Thursday, the patient argues that Google's alleged data collection is causing “irreparable harm” to herself and other web users who visit healthcare sites.
“Google’s tracking technology is likely incorporated on thousands of healthcare providers’ websites and mobile applications at this time,” lawyers for the patient, who is proceeding anonymously, write. “Every time an individual utilizes these services to request treatment, make an appointment, or otherwise communicate with their healthcare provider, Google intercepts this data and invades the individual’s privacy. Absent an injunction, this harm will continue.”
The motion comes in a class-action complaint filed earlier this month by a patient who said she used Planned Parenthood's site to search for an abortion provider, and received treatment at the reproductive health care center's affiliate in Burbank, California.
She alleged that Planned Parenthood's site included Google analytics tools that sent sensitive information back to the company.
Her complaint refers to an investigation by the app Lockdown Privacy, which reported last June that Planned Parenthood's site used third-party analytics tools leaked “extremely sensitive data" to third parties including Google, Meta and TikTok.
The information provided to Google included users' IP address, behavior on the site, ZIP code estimate, reason for visiting (including whether to schedule a surgical abortion), and pseudonymous identifier, according to The Washington Post.
After that report came out, Planned Parenthood said it would suspend the use of analytics tools from third parties like Google and Meta, according to The Post.
The complaint claims Google violated the California constitution, which includes a right to privacy, and various other privacy-related state laws.
Her lawyers argued Thursday that their claims are likely to succeed for several reasons, including that people “have a reasonable expectation in their health data and communications with healthcare providers from whom they receive treatment.”
Counsel also argues that web users could not have consented to the data collection, because they had “no way of knowing that Google is secretly intercepting their health data and private communications.”
Google hasn't yet responded to MediaPost's request for comment.
Google isn't the only company facing a lawsuit for allegedly collecting sensitive data from health sites.
Meta also is defending itself in a similar matter. The social media platform recently asked a federal judge to throw out that case, arguing that it instructs web developers to avoid sending sensitive health data.
“There is nothing inherently unlawful or harmful about the pixel-based analytics technology at the heart of this case,” the company argued in papers filed earlier this month in the Northern District of California. “Web developers -- not Meta -- choose whether, where, and how they will use the Meta Pixel.”