This editorial about the case before the Supreme Court on whether corporations have the same privacy right as individuals with respect to Freedom of Information law appeared in yesterday’s New York Times:
For 45 years, the Freedom of Information of Act has invigorated American democracy by obliging the executive branch to make public a splendid range of documents. It serves the people’s right to know, while leaving out data whose disclosure could be harmful.
The law’s “exemption 7,” about facts gathered for law enforcement, omits records whose release could be “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” Until now courts have unanimously agreed its purpose is to protect individuals. Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments about a case in which the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, decided “personal privacy” includes the privacy of corporations.
The creation of corporate privacy would transform F.O.I.A. into a battleground, between individuals and others seeking to hold the government accountable, including journalists, and corporations trying to block the release of records because of this new-found claim.
AT&T’s lawyer said he was puzzled that the issue hadn’t come up before. Justice Stephen Breyer said it might be because other exemptions amply protect corporations. Justice Antonin Scalia was blunter and even more convincing: “Another reason might be that nobody ever thought that personal privacy would cover this.”
Read more in the New York Times.