March 02, 2011, 12:34 PM — I'm guessing that soon we'll be reading about AT&T's lawsuit against the Supreme Court for "mental anguish." And why not? If it's good enough for Charlie Sheen...
From Slate's Dahlia Lithwick:
[T]he Supreme Court ruled unanimously (Tuesday) that corporations do not have such a thing as "personal privacy" for the purposes of FOIA.
(Also see: AT&T joins the 4G fraudsters)
The FOIA is the Freedom of Information Act, which allows Americans access to non-classified information in U.S. government executive branch files.
What prompted the ruling was a request by telco giant AT&T that it be allowed to withhold information from FOIA requests that "might violate the company's 'personal privacy,'" Lithwick writes.
The linchpin of AT&T's plea for FOIA personhood was its interpretation of one of the FOIA's numerous exemptions, one of which mandates that the government may withhold information if its release would create a breach of the subject's "personal privacy."
Unless AT&T has been sexting, I'm not sure what "personal privacy" it's worried about. Perhaps it's interpreting "personal" as "stealing from taxpayers." AT&T's request to the Supreme Court is based on a $500,000 settlement reached with the Federal Communications Commission in 2004 over allegations that AT&T was gouging the federal government's E-rate program, which provides discounts for cash-strapped schools and libraries to obtain Internet access.
Sadly, thinking its problems were in the past, AT&T found out that a trade group comprised of competitors was submitting FOIA requests for the FCC's investigative files. Why must people continue to dredge up all that unpleasantness?
Oh, wait. They're not people; they're companies. Just like AT&T. And thus they can't use "personal privacy" as a reason to withhold documents from FOIA requests. So rules the Supreme Court.
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.