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Navigating Data Privacy Laws in veterinary medicine

By April 4, 2023February 16th, 2024No Comments

Data privacy is a hot topic in today’s digital world, especially for veterinary practices that handle sensitive information about their clients and patients. Data privacy laws, such as the CA Consumer Protection ACT in the United States, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, aim to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals in relation to their personal data.

However, complying with these laws can be challenging and confusing for veterinary practices that operate across different jurisdictions and have diverse data processing activities. In this article, we will explore the main features and requirements of CCPA & GDPR as well as other relevant data privacy laws around the world, and provide some practical tips and best practices for compliant veterinary practices.

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CCPA

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a privacy law that went into effect on January 1, 2020, in the state of California. This law provides California residents with more control over their personal information, and it applies to all businesses that collect, process, or share the personal information of California residents, including veterinary hospitals.

The CCPA requires veterinary hospitals to take certain steps to protect the personal information of their California clients. The personal information of a client may include their name, address, phone number, email address, and other information that can be used to identify them. Veterinary hospitals are required to provide clients with specific information about how their personal information is being collected, used, and shared, and obtain consent to collect, use, and share that information.

One of the most significant impacts of the CCPA on veterinary hospitals is the need to update their privacy policies. Veterinary hospitals must inform their clients about the categories of personal information that they collect, the purposes for which the information is collected, and the categories of third parties with whom the information is shared. Veterinary hospitals must also provide clients with the right to opt-out of the sale of their personal information.

Veterinary hospitals must also implement reasonable security measures to protect the personal information of their clients from unauthorized access, disclosure, or destruction. This includes implementing physical, technical, and administrative safeguards, such as firewalls, password protection, and access controls.

In addition, the CCPA grants California residents the right to access their personal information held by veterinary hospitals and request that it be deleted. Veterinary hospitals must provide clients with a way to request access to or deletion of their personal information and respond to such requests within a specified period.

The CCPA also requires veterinary hospitals to update their vendor contracts to ensure that vendors comply with the CCPA’s privacy requirements. This includes ensuring that vendors only use personal information for authorized purposes and that they implement reasonable security measures to protect the personal information.

Failure to comply with the CCPA can result in significant penalties, including fines of up to $7,500 per violation. Veterinary hospitals must take the necessary steps to comply with the CCPA to avoid such penalties and protect the personal information of their California clients.

In conclusion, the CCPA has significant implications for veterinary hospitals that collect, process, or share the personal information of California residents. Veterinary hospitals must update their privacy policies, implement reasonable security measures, provide clients with the right to access and delete their personal information, and update their vendor contracts to comply with the CCPA’s requirements. By doing so, veterinary hospitals can protect the personal information of their clients and avoid penalties for non-compliance.

Additional States with Similar Legislation to the CCPA

A lot of other states are adopting very similar legislation to the CCPA. Below is a chart showing the status of data privacy laws. Note each state may have different nuances in how the data privacy law is written. Thus its important to review the laws in your state.

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GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a law that protects the personal data of individuals in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). It also applies to veterinary practices that have customers in the EU or the EEA, or that offer goods or services to them. The GDPR sets out strict rules and requirements for collecting, processing, storing, and transferring personal data, as well as granting individuals various rights over their data.

Some of the key requirements of the GDPR for veterinary practices include:

  • Obtaining clear and specific consent from customers before collecting or using their personal data, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, or pet information. Consent must be given on an “opt-in” basis and can be withdrawn at any time.
  • Providing customers with a privacy notice that explains what data is collected, why it is collected, how it is used, who it is shared with, how long it is kept, and what rights they have over their data. The privacy notice must be concise, transparent, and easily accessible.
  • Implementing appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data from unauthorized or unlawful access, use, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. This could include encryption, pseudonymization, firewalls, backups, access controls, and staff training.
  • Reporting any personal data breaches to the relevant supervisory authority within 72 hours of becoming aware of them, unless they are unlikely to pose a risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals. Customers must also be notified without undue delay if the breach is likely to result in a high risk to their rights and freedoms.
  • Respecting the rights of individuals over their personal data, such as the right to access, rectify, erase, restrict, port, or object to the processing of their data. Veterinary practices must respond to requests from individuals within one month and without charge.

Following GDPR standards can help veterinary practices improve their data protection and customer satisfaction. By complying with the GDPR, veterinarians can also avoid hefty fines and penalties that can reach up to 20 million euros or 4% of their annual global turnover. Some of the benefits of following GDPR standards include the following:

  • Enhancing customer trust and loyalty
  • Improving data quality and accuracy
  • Reducing data storage costs
  • Increasing competitive advantage

Other Privacy Data Laws

In addition to CCPA and GDPR, there are other privacy laws that may affect veterinary practices in different regions or countries. These laws have some similarities and differences with CCPA and GDPR, and veterinary practices should be aware of them and comply with them as applicable. Some of these laws include:-

  • Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA): A state law in Illinois that regulates the collection, use, storage, and disclosure of biometric information.
  • Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA): Protects the privacy of electronic communications, such as emails and telephone conversations, by prohibiting unauthorized access and disclosure.
  • Privacy Act of 1974: Governs the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information by federal agencies, requiring them to maintain accurate records and provide individuals with access to their records.

Therefore, it is the responsibility of veterinary practices to be aware of these and other relevant data privacy laws that may affect their operations and customers. They should also monitor any changes or updates to these laws and ensure they comply with them accordingly.

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