SCOTUS To Decide if Corporations Have Privacy Rights

Like what the Supreme Court did for corporate speech rights in January with the Citizens United decision?  Well, stay tuned, because there may be more just like that decision come this term.

That’s because the Court is set to take up the issue of whether or not corporations have privacy interests than can be constitutionally or statutorily protected.  The issue arises in the form of a freedom of information dispute and, more specifically, seeks to answer the question of whether or not corporations may assert personal privacy interests to prevent the government from releasing documents about them when responding to a FOIA request.

The case involved information gathered by the Federal Communications Commission on AT&T during and investigation into the company’s participation in the federal E-Rate program, which helps schools and libraries get Internet access.  The Obama administration has asked the Court to rule that corporations may not claim a personal privacy exception contained in the Freedom of Information Act as a means of avoiding disclosure of the information.  AT&T thinks it can.

Justice Kagan has recused herself from the case since it was a matter before her as Solicitor General where she argued that privacy rights, especially in the context of a FOIA response, can only be asserted by individuals.

The implications of a ruling that AT&T can force the government to keep private information of corporate wrongdoing based on “individual privacy interests” has startling ramifications.  Oftentimes governmental agencies are key players in corporate fraud and criminal investigations, and it is through FOIA requests that private citizens often gather crucial information necessary to protect their rights. 

A ruling in AT&T’s favor here could be just shades away from allowing a corporation to invoke the 5th Amendment.  Imagine the implications.  Want to know what BP knew and when during the Deepwater Horizon spill?  What about Goldman Sachs or Bank of America?  Right now only individuals that are targets of investigation may assert such privacy rights because, logically, rights are individually held. 

Or at least they were.  Until January and the extension of corporate personhood to its illogical extreme.

Given the decidedly pro-business bias of the Roberts Court there’s a lot to be worried about here.    

photo courtesy of blmurch via Flickr


Ernie Miller
william M8 years ago

before we start screaming Impeach them all we need to wait and see where they let this go. Hopefuly they have the inteligance to realize that a company is not an individual but more of a hive where the drones fallow the instructions of the queen. Corperations already have all the protection the need.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y8 years ago

If they vote yes impeach them. FDR got rid of extreme right-wing justices, why can't we?

Walter G.
Walter G8 years ago

Marie W. has the right idea, however corporations do not die. As GM and many others, recently proved, they hibernate in 'bankruptcy' for a while, guesting on our money, then return stronger, and more obnoxious than ever, to absorb the loan which we should have returned, with interest, to us.

ChanTlalok Rain C.

Thanx Jessica, I agree with Vaughn, IMPEACH. God Bless!!

Janyce Stockstill
Janyce S8 years ago

OH crap!! If they get awarded individual rights, with their unlimited amount of money, they will have us become the United Cooperations of America with the 5 turncoats of the Supreme Court at the helm.

William Grogan
William Grogan8 years ago

It seems this would be the last big question, if decided in corporate favor, to cement corporate control over the government and the people. Thanks to the Roberts supreme court, corporations can practically buy elections. Now if they win this privacy ruling, and past Roberts court decisions certainly point in that direction, all their behind the scenes coniving and misdeeds will be kept from the public. America has become a country of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations!

Marie W.
Marie W8 years ago

Corporations do everything people do, except breathe, eat, die and pay for their crimes!!!

Dave K.
Dave K8 years ago

A corporation is nothing more than a business. It is not a person, nor does it deserve any human rights. The remaining question is if a corporation is a person, does that make a person a corporation? If A=B, then B should be equal to A. If not, then there is a serious problem.

Lisa E.
Lisa E.8 years ago

Tax Legislation was passed long ago giving Corporations the same rights as people. This is about privacy equating a corporation to again be equal in rights to an individual. Unforeseen repercussions to such a ruling will be far-reaching. Similar to the passing of the Patent Act which provided incidental, unintended privileges to companies like Monsanto - the right to patent things new even if they didn't invent/create it but merely discovered it, mapped it, or merely changed one molecular part of it, & so on, which progressed to the patenting of living organisms, even life forms. Congress, Supreme Court Judges, panels, ALL can be approached in back rooms. There are covert lobbists trained to overwhelm, seduce with untraceable $$$$$. Even the Judicial. Shall be interesting to see how this goes. Government for the people has long departed and government for Corporations and Banks has taken over. How difficult to unwind all of this. Pity Obama. How can one singular persona, even one 'supposed' to be the most powerful man on the planet right now, unwind or reverse all that has been put in place to date. Imagine how impossible to prevail with good intentions, good legislation, while daily being inundated with tainted data/logic, corrupted undermining confusing minutia proffered by 'Corporate Mensa Hirelings', pressured by powerful big business, corrupted CIA and military officials . . . ? Going against the tide of corporate big business is like swimming in a unholy vortex.

Robert Shelby
Robert Shelby8 years ago

The Supreme Court is, alas, itself transparent in every sense, yet it elevates itself above the clouds in a bubble of indifference to public concern as if it believes indifference is judicial objectivity as opposed to letting itself be politicized. Oh, how terrible to be political! How injudicious! Low to ground as to connect with humanity instead of legal abstractions that mask any godawful travesty these "justices" care to inflict on us to benefit their friends, their class affiliates! Disrobe fat Tony Scalia, Roberts and (whatzisname, that latest twerp!)