Supreme Court Rules AT&T Has No Privacy Rights

The Supreme Court ruled against AT&T in a privacy rights case today, holding that since it is a corporation and not a person, it does not have a right to privacy. The case involved a Freedom of Information request seeking documents pertaining to an FCC investigation of AT&T and possible overbilling.

AdamB at Daily Kos provides analysis of the decision. You can read the opinion here.

Lyle Denniston at Scotus Blog has more in "A Word Game Over Privacy."

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    After summarizing their conclusion (none / 0) (#1)
    by Peter G on Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 03:33:01 PM EST
    as to the meaning of the phrase, "personal privacy," and why it can't apply to corporations, the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Roberts, ends, "We trust that AT&T will not take it personally."

    CJ Roberts does seem to like (none / 0) (#6)
    by christinep on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 03:20:48 PM EST
    displaying his clever way with words. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

    So, if they are not "a person" (none / 0) (#2)
    by jbindc on Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 03:36:01 PM EST
    How does this square with Citizens United?

    The court did not say today (none / 0) (#3)
    by Peter G on Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 03:51:20 PM EST
    that a corporation is not a "person" -- not generally, nor in any specific context. It said that a corporation has no "personal privacy" that needs to be protected when government records are considered for release under the Freedom of Information Act.  In fact, much of the decision discusses the differences in how the noun "person" is used from the way the adjective "personal" is used.  Interesting discussion of how adjectives do not always reflect their root nouns -- crab vs. crabbed, and crank vs. cranky are two examples the Chief Justice gives.

    I almost quoted that section here (none / 0) (#5)
    by andgarden on Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 04:15:47 PM EST
    I almost guarantee that it will reappear in briefs and opinions for years to come.

    According to Adam B (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Tue Mar 01, 2011 at 03:59:32 PM EST
    What makes this case different from Citizens United is that the former case concerned the First Amendment right to freedom of speech -- a restriction on government action which doesn't refer to "persons" at all in that clause -- whereas today's question regarded the interpretation of an act of Congress which used the word "personal" and which therefore had to be interpreted in context to figure out what Congress meant.

    So I guess CU left the SCOTUS free to define an entity such as a 'person', and this case they had to interpret what 'personal privacy' meant in the law in question. Seems like a lot of labor was extended to divorce 'personal' from 'person'.


    Maybe the "privacy" findings (none / 0) (#7)
    by christinep on Wed Mar 02, 2011 at 03:24:14 PM EST
    ...are a preview of decisions that may involve (oh, lets say) union organizations and other entities. Maybe it is a pathway to distinguishing Citizens United in campaign $$ instances from everything/lots of things else.