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CONTACT: Project On Government Oversight
POGO Opposes "Personal Privacy" FOIA Exemption for Corporations
WASHINGTON - November 17 - Yesterday, POGO and other open government advocates filed a friend of the court brief
in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the public’s right to know the
government’s business. Specifically, POGO challenged the Court of
Appeals decision in AT&T v. FCC holding that the Freedom of
Information Act’s “personal privacy” exemption applies to corporate
“If this ruling stands, the public will be in the dark about how the government spends our tax dollars,” stated Scott Amey, POGO’s general counsel. “We hope that the Court sees the distinction between an individual and a company doing business with the government.”
This case stems from a 2005 FOIA request by competitors of AT&T for records related to a Federal Communications Commission investigation into AT&T’s federal contracts. AT&T objected to the request and asked that certain records be withheld on the grounds of personal privacy. The FCC rejected AT&T’s argument. Subsequently, AT&T petitioned the Federal Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which overruled the FCC, holding that corporations do have a right to personal privacy under FOIA Exemption 7(C). The FCC filed a petition for review by the Supreme Court, which was granted on September 28, 2010.
FOIA Exemption 7(C) exempts from mandatory disclosure “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information … could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”
For a complete list of pleadings and a summary of the case, visit http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/09-1279.htm and http://epic.org/amicus/fccvatt/default.html.
POGO’s counsel included Neal Goldfarb of Butzel Long Tighe Patton, PLLC and Mark S. Zaid of the Law Office of Mark S. Zaid, PC.