The Supreme Court of the United States ruled Tuesday that AT&T and other corporations do not have personal privacy rights under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to make documents publicly available upon request, but contains an exemption for documents that “constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
Claiming they were a “corporation citizen,” AT&T tried to use the personal privacy exemption to prevent the disclosure of federal government documents about the company.
“Personal’ in the phrase ‘personal privacy’ conveys more than just ‘of a person,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his decision. “It suggest a type of privacy evocative of human concerns—not the sort usually associated with an entity like, say, AT&T.”
“We reject the argument that because ‘person’ is defined for purposes of FOIA to include a corporation, the phrase ‘personal privacy’ in Exemption 7(C) reaches corporations as well,” he said.
“The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations.”
“We trust that AT&T will not take it personally,” Roberts added. “The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.”
The decision is a striking contrast to the court’s ruling in Citizens United, which upended decades of campaign finance regulation, allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns without having to identify themselves.
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010,
and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs
of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University.
Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on
Raw Story is a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media. While giving coverage to the big stories of the day, we also bring our readers' attention to policy, politics, legal and human rights stories that get ignored in an infotainment culture driven solely by pageviews.
Founded in 2004, Raw Story reaches 5 million unique readers per month and serves more than 19 million pageviews.