A potential class-action lawsuit against troubled digital prescribing startup Cerebral raises crucial questions about whether online marketing methods violate legal and ethical standards — an issue with important implications for dozens of other telehealth companies doing largely the same thing, experts tell STAT.
For years, Cerebral and other telehealth companies have used free tracking technologies known as “pixels” — provided by big technology companies like Google, Meta, and TikTok — to gather data about customers’ behavior on the site, which can then be used to target ads later. While it’s also used by brick-and-mortar health system websites, a growing number of direct-to-consumer telehealth companies with fewer options for in-person marketing, like Hims & Hers and Ro, particularly rely on the technology to attract new customers.
But in recent months, policymakers, lawyers, and patients have pushed to subject the practice to increased legal and regulatory scrutiny over concerns it violates customers’ privacy. Their activity could set a new standard for taking action against a widely used — and largely under-regulated — marketing technology that has buoyed the burgeoning telehealth industry.
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