How do HIPAA violations relate to other federal privacy laws?

by | Jun 23, 2023 | HIPAA News and Advice

HIPAA violations are specific breaches of the HIPAA that pertain exclusively to the mishandling of protected health information within the healthcare and health insurance sectors, whereas other federal privacy laws, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), address distinct aspects of privacy concerns within education and online activities involving children, demonstrating the regulatory framework aimed at safeguarding sensitive information across various domains. Understanding the relationship between HIPAA violations and other federal privacy laws demands an exploration of the distinctive regulatory frameworks that govern different sectors, ranging from healthcare to education and online activities.

Points of ComparisonHIPAAFERPACOPPA
Scope and DomainPertains to healthcare and health insurance sectors.Focuses on safeguarding educational records and student privacy.Concentrates on safeguarding children’s online privacy.
Protected InformationCovers protected health information (PHI).Covers educational records including grades and disciplinary records.Addresses personal information collected from children online.
Purpose and RightsGrants patients control over health information; regulates PHI use and disclosure.Provides parents and eligible students rights over educational records.Empowers parents to control the collection of children’s online data.
Enforcement and OversightEnforced by OCR within HHS.Healthcare professionals must comply with patient privacy.Enforced by the FTC.
Consequences of ViolationsFines, corrective action, and potential criminal charges.Loss of federal funding, potential legal actions.Substantial fines, compliance improvements, potential legal consequences.
Digital LandscapeFocuses on healthcare data within covered entities.Focuses on educational records within educational institutions.Focuses on children’s data in online environments.
Autonomy and TransparencyEmphasizes autonomy, control, and transparency in health data handling.Emphasizes autonomy and control over educational records.Emphasizes parental control and transparency in online data collection.
Professional ImplicationsHealthcare professionals must comply for patient privacy.Educators support FERPA for student privacy.Online service providers comply to safeguard children’s data.
Regulatory FrameworkPart of the healthcare data protection framework.Part of privacy protections in the education sector.Part of a framework for safeguarding children’s online privacy.
Table: Comparison of HIPAA, FERPA and COPPA

HIPAA protects healthcare data by establishing stringent standards for the safeguarding of individuals’ protected health information (PHI). PHI covers any identifiable health data, including medical history, treatment plans, and payment details, that is created, stored, transmitted, or maintained by covered entities, such as healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses. The HIPAA has two main components: the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule. The HIPAA Privacy Rule defines the permissible uses and disclosures of PHI and grants patients control over their health information, whereas the HIPAA Security Rule prescribes technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic PHI (ePHI). HIPAA violations come to the fore when these stipulated standards are compromised, leading to unauthorized access, disclosure, or mishandling of PHI. Such violations can have severe consequences, both legally and financially, ranging from civil penalties and corrective action plans to criminal charges in cases of egregious misconduct. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), administers and enforces HIPAA, investigating alleged violations and imposing sanctions where necessary. HIPAA emphasizes the importance of ensuring the privacy and security of sensitive health data to maintain trust between patients and healthcare entities.

Concurrently, other federal privacy laws address discrete facets of privacy concerns within different domains. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), enacted in 1974, furnishes privacy protections for students’ educational records. FERPA grants parents and eligible students the right to access and control their education records and prescribes limitations on the disclosure of such records without explicit consent. Unlike HIPAA, which pertains exclusively to healthcare data, FERPA operates within the educational milieu, ensuring that students’ academic records remain confidential and accessible only to authorized individuals. Similarly, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), enacted in 1998, concentrates on shielding the online privacy of children under the age of 13. COPPA requires online platforms to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from young users. The Act’s objective is to mitigate the risks associated with children’s exposure to online services and to empower parents with control over the data shared by their children in digital environments. By focusing on digital spaces, COPPA tackles privacy concerns that extend beyond traditional healthcare or educational settings, recognizing the unique vulnerabilities of young internet users.

The convergence of these federal privacy laws shows the complex nature of privacy today. While HIPAA hones in on healthcare information, FERPA and COPPA cater to the distinctive demands of education and the digital realm, respectively. Despite their discrete scopes, these laws collectively espouse the principles of autonomy, control, and transparency, ensuring that individuals maintain a measure of influence over the use and disclosure of their private information.

Appreciating the relationship between HIPAA violations and other federal privacy laws is necessary for maintaining ethical and legal standards. Healthcare professionals, who often handle sensitive patient data, must ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations to prevent breaches that could lead to inadvertent PHI disclosures. Educators and administrators must be knowledgeable in FERPA to honor the privacy rights of students and their families while effectively managing academic records. Individuals operating in the digital world, such as app developers or online service providers, must adhere to COPPA requirements to ensure that children’s data is collected and processed responsibly. An understanding of these laws enables professionals to create data protection strategies that align with the unique demands of their respective sectors, promoting privacy-conscious practices.


The relationship between HIPAA violations and other federal privacy laws is an interplay between specific regulations tailored to different sectors. HIPAA’s focus on healthcare information aligns with FERPA’s emphasis on educational records and COPPA’s attention to children’s online privacy. Together, these laws compose a regulatory framework aimed at safeguarding sensitive information across distinct domains. By adhering to the principles embedded in these laws, professionals contribute to the maintenance of trust, respect for privacy, and the responsible management of personal data in a rapidly evolving digital world.

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Reporting a HIPAA Violations
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Penalties for HIPAA Violations
State Laws and HIPAA Violations
Monitoring for Potential HIPAA Violations
Office of Civil Rights HIPAA Violations
Preventing HIPAA Violations Through Audits
Common Myths about HIPAA Violations
HIPAA Violation Whistleblowers
Telemedicine and HIPAA Violations
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