The US Supreme Court Monday ruled that corporations do not enjoy the same rights to privacy as individuals, rejecting claims by AT&T that it should not have to disclose some emails and other documents.
In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the court ruled that the “personal” exception to the Freedom of Information Act, did not apply to corporations, despite being labeled as “persons” under the law. A ninth justice, Elena Kagan, rescused herself from the case.
“Certainly, if the chief executive officer of a corporation approached the chief financial officer and said, ‘I have something personal to tell you’, we would not assume the CEO was about to discuss company business,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the court.
“In fact, we often use the word ‘personal’ to mean precisely the opposite of business-related: We speak of personal expenses and business expenses, personal life and work life, personal opinion and a company’s view,” he said.
A group of AT&T competitors, Comptel, had sought some documents related to a 2004 FCC investigation into charges that AT&T overbilled a Connecticut school district, but the telecommunications giant argued they were “personal.”
The court rejected AT&T’s argument and said: “We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.”