The Big Story: Meta’s HIPAA Violations And The Rise Of MMM

The Big Story podcast

HIPPA is in the news. Meta just got sued over an alleged violation of the law.

But HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a much-misunderstood piece of legislation. For example, it only applies to a narrow set of “protected entities.” When one of those protected entities shares information with a digital advertising company, however, it’s a HIPAA violation waiting to happen.

That’s what went down with Meta recently when hospitals shared sensitive information (like why a patient booked an appointment) through the Meta pixel. That information later turned up in ads people saw on Facebook, according to one of the class action lawsuits filed after The Markup uncovered the data leakage.

In this week’s episode, we offer a quick rundown on when HIPAA applies – and on the surprising places where people are sharing sensitive health information without any legally mandated data protections … as in your favorite calorie-counting, heartbeat-monitoring or period-tracking app.

Consider this your quick-and-dirty HIPAA primer. For example, did you know that pharmaceutical companies or hospitals working with protected health information, like electronic health records, are subject to HIPAA? But, like in the case of Meta and the hospitals, HIPAA also applies if a company with access to protected health information shares that info with your company.

MMM’s back in style

Then, we unpack how marketers are using MMM and incrementality measurement to fill in the gaps across today’s siloed digital advertising ecosystem, where conversion data is getting harder and harder to come by.

In response, a cottage industry of startups – among them Improvado, INCRMENTAL, SegmentStream and Amplitude – is sprouting up to serve marketers. But what marketers don’t like about these new measurement solutions is that they add more cost to their campaigns. And instead of on-the-fly measurement and quick optimizations, marketers often have to wait weeks or months for MMM data to process and give them usable insights.

As the MMM and incrementality measurement space heats up, though, expect M&A and strategic acquirers to enter the category, AdExchanger Senior Editor James Hercher predicts.

In the meantime, brands are testing away – because they have no other good options.

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