Top Court to Decide Corporate Privacy Rights

September 29, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it would decide whether corporations like AT&T Inc can claim personal privacy to prevent the disclosure of government records about them under the freedom of information law.

The justices agreed to hear an Obama administration appeal arguing that the law’s personal privacy protections apply only to individuals, not to corporations like the telecommunications giant.

A U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia handed AT&T a victory by ruling that corporations may invoke personal privacy as a legal basis for claiming that government records about them should be exempt from disclosure.

The administration said it marked the first time in the 35-year-history of the law that it has been extended to corporations.

Six public interest groups supported the administration’s appeal.

Unless the Supreme Court overturns the ruling, government records could be withheld about coal mine safety violations, offshore oil rig problems, dirty conditions at a food manufacturing plant and questionable investment bank financial dealings, the groups said.

AT&T said it has the right to make use of the Freedom of Information Act’s personal privacy exception.


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