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Reporters Committee pleased by Supreme Court’s ‘common sense’ decision to deny personal privacy FOIA exemption to corporations

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  1. Freedom of Information
For Immediate Release: March 1, 2011 Washington, D.C. — The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press lauded today’s U.S.…

For Immediate Release: March 1, 2011

Washington, D.C. — The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press lauded today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations cannot claim a “personal privacy” exemption from releasing information under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The result in this case should not be a surprise to anyone,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “We’re gratified that the U.S. Supreme Court took a position backed by the legislative intent behind the Freedom of Information Act as well as common sense.”

The Reporters Committee and 22 media organizations filed an amicus brief in Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T Inc. noting that corporations already enjoy significant protections for trade secrets and other business practices. Allowing companies to claim privacy rights traditionally and intentionally granted to individuals would, the brief argued, “insulate corporate activity from journalists and other public interest watchdog groups that work to maintain accountability and keep the public informed.”

The Supreme Court agreed. In the unanimous decision written by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court noted that there is “little support for the notion” that the word “personal” denotes corporations. “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,” he wrote. “We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.”

For analysis and background on the case, visit the Reporters Committee website.

The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.

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