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FCC v. ATT (2011)

On November 16, 2010, the Association of Research Libraries joined CREW and other public interest and nonprofit groups in filing an amicus brief (PDF) arguing that the express language of Exemption 7(C) of the FOIA, 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(C), and the legislative intent behind the exemption point unmistakably to an interpretation that excludes any protection for so-called “privacy” interests of corporate entities. The term “personal privacy” used by the exemption to describe its reach applies exclusively to individuals, not abstract and artificial constructs like corporations.

On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court reversed the Third Circuit's decision and held that corporations cannot claim exempt status from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The decision, however, is limited only to the specific exemptions under FOIA. The Court's opinion ended with the following: 

"We reject the argument that because "person" is defined for purposes of FOIA to include a corporation, the phrase "personal privacy" in Exemption 7(C) reaches corporations as well. The protection in FOIA against disclosure of law enforcement information on the ground that it would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy does not extend to corporations. We trust that AT&T will not take it personally."[1]




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