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A federal judge has sided with a powerful hospital lobby in a legal battle with regulators over hospitals’ use of third-party website trackers to gather details about visitors’ online behavior.

North Texas U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman ruled that federal guidance limiting hospital websites’ use of these trackers exceeds the Health and Human Services Department’s authority under HIPAA, according to an opinion filed Thursday.


The American Hospital Association had sued the Office for Civil Rights, which oversees the federal privacy law known as HIPAA, last year shortly after OCR published a bulletin restricting the use of free tracking technologies, including those offered by Google and Meta. The industry association argued that OCR’s attempts to regulate these tools both exceed its authority and could cause harm to hospitals and their online visitors by depriving them of relevant and accurate information, including translation services and digital maps.

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