U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Corporate Privacy

8 October 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to review of the Third Circuit appeals court decision that a company has a right of privacy under the U.S. freedom of information law.

In the case of FCC v. AT&T (No. 09-1279) the Third Circuit found the company had a right of privacy under Exemption 7(C), which protects against invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records.

The Third Circuit ruled that if Congress had intended to shield only individuals under Exemption 7(C), it could have used the term “individual,” as it did in another exemption.

The records in question relate to an FCC investigation into whether AT&T over-billed the government for telecommunications equipment for schools. In response to a FOIA request filed by a third party, the FCC planned to release the documents.

However, in a “reverse FOIA” suit, AT&T sued to prevent disclosure, saying the release of the documents would violate the company’s privacy rights.  In supporting AT&T, the court overruled previous law, which  generally held that corporations did not have privacy rights.

“Corporations, like human beings, face public embarrassment, harassment and stigma” because of their involvement in law enforcement investigations, Judge Michael A. Chagares wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.

The federal government has urged the Supreme Court to reject the argument that the exemption “protects the so-called ‘privacy’ of inanimate corporate entities.”

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under: What's New