In an 8-0 ruling with Justice Kagan recused, the Supreme Court has reversed a Third Circuit decision in FCC v. AT&T (No. 09-1279). The upshot of the ruling is that corporations cannot withhold information or block its release in response to a freedom of information request by claiming that the information is protected under the personal privacy exemption to FOIA (Exemption 7c).
Joan Biskupic of USA Today reports:
Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts emphasized that, ” ‘Personal’ ordinarily refers to individuals. We do not usually speak of personal characteristics, personal effects, personal correspondence, personal influence or personal tragedy as referring to corporations or other artificial entities.”
The chief justice acknowledged that “adjectives typically reflect the meaning of corresponding nouns but not always” and cited as examples “corn” and “corny,” and “crank” and “cranky.”
More broadly, Roberts said that when it comes to the word “personal,” little support exists, even in the law, for the notion that it refers to corporations.
He closed the decision against the telecommunications giant with a bit of levity: “We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.”
Read more on USA Today.