Injury Law Firms Are Targeting ER Patients With Mobile Ads

Patients who visit emergency rooms in Philadelphia are being targeted with ads for injury law firms.

According to National Public Radio, the law firms are using technology known as geofencing. Often used to share discounts and offers from shops, geofencing connects to your phone once a person has entered a certain area—in this case, a hospital. It works by locating a phone using Wi-Fi, cellular data and GPS. 

Injured and sick Philadelphia residents are then shown ads for around a month.

Bill Kakis, a digital marketer who runs Tell All Digital in New York, says the marketing method is “totally legit.” “It’s really, I think, the closest thing an attorney can do to putting a digital kiosk inside of an emergency room,” Kakis told NPR.

“Is everybody in an emergency room going to need an attorney? Absolutely not. But people that are going to need a personal injury attorney are more than likely at some point going to end up in an emergency room.”

Kakis did not reveal which personal injury law firms had signed on, but did say it was a fast-growing part of his business. “What’s your target demographic for injured people? There isn’t one. Because everybody gets injured.”

In April last year, geofencing was in the spotlight when it was revealed a Christian group was sending targeted advertising about pregnancy options to women entering Planned Parenthood clinics. Copley Advertising in Massachusetts was hired to push ads to “abortion-minded women.”

Once in the clinic, the women would see suggestions such as “You Have Choices” and “Pregnancy Help.” Once clicked, some ads would even direct the woman to a live chat with a “pregnancy support specialist.”

Attorney General Maura Healey went after the advertising agency and ultimately won—anti-abortion ads based on geofencing were removed. “Consumers are entitled to privacy in their medical decisions and conditions,” Healey said at the time. “This settlement will help ensure that consumers in Massachusetts do not have to worry about being targeted by advertisers when they seek medical care.”

Speaking to NPR, Northeast Philadelphia resident Joe Finnegan said he does not want his doctors appointments to be publicly accessible information. “I mean, you can’t just put a physical fence up, why would you be able to put a cyberfence up?” Finnegan who recently attended an appointment in Center City, said. “If they’re tracking every move in that regard, what else are they watching?”

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