Today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected AT&T’s claim that the personal privacy exemption under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applies to companies. The Court’s ruling was limited to the FOIA 7(c) exemption, which prevents the release of records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes that “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
POGO, along with other good government advocates, filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case of Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T, Inc., which was cited by Justice Ginsburg during the oral argument in January.
Not all corporate information turned over to the federal government will be publicly accessible as a result of the holding (there are other applicable FOIA exemptions and restrictions), but this is a win for transparency, openness, and the public.
The case involved protecting information related to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigation into possible AT&T overcharges on a school IT program. The FCC determined that records related to its investigation could be released to a FOIA requester, an AT&T competitor. Today’s decision unanimously reverses the 3rd Circuit, which held that FOIA exemption 7(c) applied and the records could not be released.
Scott Amey is POGO's General Counsel.
Image by Flickr user Mark Fischer, used under Creative Commons License.
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