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FOIA’s Privacy Exemptions Do Not Apply to Corporations, Supreme Court Holds

Exemption 7(c) of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows the withholding of records that “could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” 5 U.S.C. § 552 (b) (7) (c). The third circuit held that Exemption 7 (c) could be used to shield records that invaded the “personal privacy” of corporations. On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court reversed.

While corporations are considered persons under the law, it does not follow that corporations have a similar right to “personal” privacy within the meaning of FOIA according to Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the Court. When discussing the concept of “personal” privacy, the Court explained, one does not think of the personal privacy of a corporation.

Quaintly, in concluding the Court’s decision, Roberts said he hoped the corporation “will not take it personally.” See: Federal Communications Commission v AT&T Inc., 131 S.Ct 1177 (2011).

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Related legal case

Federal Communications Commission v AT&T Inc.