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Does A Company Deserve the Same Privacy Rights As You? 379

Posted by samzenpus
from the won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-business dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an important case to determine whether or not AT&T deserves 'personal privacy' rights. The company claimed that the FCC should not be allowed to distribute (under a Freedom of Information Act request) data it had collected concerning possible fraud and overbilling related to the e-rate program. The FCC argued that the information should be made public and that companies had no individual right to 'personal privacy,' the way individuals do. As it stands right now, the appeals court found that companies like AT&T do deserve personal privacy rights, and now the Supreme Court will take up that question as well. Given the results of earlier 'corporation rights' cases, such as Citizens United, at some point you wonder if the Supreme Court will also give companies the right to vote directly."
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Does A Company Deserve the Same Privacy Rights As You?

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  • Really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KillaGouge (973562) <gougec17 AT msn DOT com> on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @04:53PM (#33739896)
    If this comes to pass, then corporations will soon have more rights than people do. I'd expect to see a whole lot of real estate transactions in Delaware, and a lot more corporations being set up as people incorporate themselves to enjoy everything the government has been doing for corporations lately.
    • Re:Really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @04:55PM (#33739926)

      then corporations will soon have more rights than people do

      They already do. They get all the rights we do but with very few of
      the consequences.

      • Re:Really (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:06PM (#33740764)

        They already do. They get all the rights we do but with very few of the consequences.

        Absolutely. Corps will start to deserve the same rights as people the day something like a manslaughter verdict is enough to fiscally isolate an entire corp from society in the same way jail would isolate a flesh and blood human.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by shoehornjob (1632387)

        They already do. They get all the rights we do but with very few of the consequences

        Perhaps it's time for the blissfully ignorant people of the USA to step up and take back some of those rights. Oh wait I forgot.... we never do anything like this until we are pushed to the brink. Damn lazy society. At least we can't complain that the corporations are raping us....OH WAIT DAMN.

      • Re:Really (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IICV (652597) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @08:34PM (#33742230)

        Indeed, by definition a corporation is set up to make people less liable for their actions. I mean, what did you think LLC stands for? Sure, if you order your corporate minions to outright murder someone you'll usually go to jail, but if it's along the lines of "whoops, the battery in that car explodes and kills people? Who would have guessed?" all that happens is that the corporation is fined some money. The government doesn't even get to go after anyone's personal bank account.

        I personally think that this is a complete travesty. We should, basically, abolish the corporation. If you're going to do business, you will be responsible for making sure your products don't kill people - not some nebulous legal entity.

        • Re:Really (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Yaur (1069446) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @09:07PM (#33742500)
          The original idea isn't bad. Corporations are supposed to exist to shield investors in a company from liability created by its officers. In other words, if I give you money to create car batteries and you make batteries that explode and kill people. You should be liable for the damages but I shouldn't. We have, unfortunately, accepted a much broader idea of what this liability shield is all about.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          IANAL:

          An LLC doesn't guarantee complete immunity. If there's evidence that you not only knew about the exploding batteries but also demanded they be sold anyway, you may be held liable. I believe LLC is supposed to protect the investors and officers from liability due to an unintentional or unforeseen event.

          Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC didn't keep Bernard Madoff from going to jail for operating a Ponzi scheme.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by IICV (652597)

            If there's evidence that you not only knew about the exploding batteries but also demanded they be sold anyway, you may be held liable.

            And how would they find that evidence, when all you did was demand the impossible from your employees and get a faulty product out of it?

            Hell, if you just went around and said "look guys I know it has some problems but we need to ship now" you'd still be pretty much safe. Bernie Madoff's only failing was that he was so blatant about it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Didn't ya hear?

      Come this November Microsoft will be casting approximately ~1 million ballots (one per employee they represent). Ditto Apple. The corporate "person" has won the right to vote. (just joking). The employees *inside* the corporation have the right to vote, speak, hire lobbyists, et cetera but the corporation itself has no more rights than a building.

      This truth is self-evident.

      • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:38PM (#33740470) Homepage Journal

        The employees *inside* the corporation have the right to vote, speak, hire lobbyists, et cetera but the corporation itself has no more rights than a building.

        The participants in a corporation are shielded for the most part from personal liability. That's the secret sauce that makes corporations so desirable; the people who form a company can pool their money and the entity is held responsible for the activities they collectively engage in, rather than the individuals involved. This is a great incentive for generating entrepreneurial activity, but it also means that the corporation has a legal life of its own, separate from even the founding individuals, much less people who were brought aboard long after the founders died.

        The people inside the corporation spend money on lobbyists, PR campaigns, PACs, and so on, but they are merely the servants of the corporation. When Altria spends millions on local, state, and federal elections every year, it's not because J. Worthington Snipe, the guy who runs their Dirty Tricks Division, is exercising his rights as an individual. It's because Altria is taking advantage of its legal right to free speech, as defined by a series of Supreme Court decisions that completely ignore the fact that voting rights only matter if they are not completely overpowered by the 1st Amendment rights of goliath corporations.

        The fact that corporations are legal fictions in no way diminishes the fact that they have been given many rights we would otherwise associate only with human beings.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Red Flayer (890720)

          The people inside the corporation spend money on lobbyists, PR campaigns, PACs, and so on, but they are merely the servants of the corporation. When Altria spends millions on local, state, and federal elections every year, it's not because J. Worthington Snipe, the guy who runs their Dirty Tricks Division, is exercising his rights as an individual. It's because Altria is taking advantage of its legal right to free speech, as defined by a series of Supreme Court decisions that completely ignore the fact that

        • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:12PM (#33741474)
          Corporations aren't supposed to shield employees from liability. They are supposed to shield investors who have no control from liability. Every employee should be able to be held liable for their actions. The problem is that people are, in practice, shielded because the blame gets moved around until there's no one person who can be prosecuted. But what should happen in that situation is to charge the entire company under RICO. Any corporation that does any illegal act with the knowledge/consent of most of the employees is no better than the mob. They should be treated as such.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by WillDraven (760005)

            I think we should make the U.S. Attorney General an elected position. That way when the population sees criminal activity in a corporation we can vote for the guy who says he's going to prosecute them for it. In the current system we just have to hope that the guy the president picks for the job is on the side of the people. Of course this isn't a perfect fix but I think it's a step in the right direction.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Long answer: noooooooooooooo!

    • More justified answer: PERSONal rights are called that for a reason. Corporations are not people. And, even if they were, who said they were citizens?

      Part of me though says "Why not? Our rights and laws are fucked up enough already. Why not break it a little more and see if we can get to the tipping point where everyone realizes we need to fix some things at a fundamental level? I'd be happy if this was a period where your average americans started re-examining things like the patriot act, ACTA, and ho

      • Re:Short answer: no. (Score:5, Informative)

        by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:48PM (#33740576) Homepage Journal

        But corporations *ARE* people in the eyes of law. Even though it wasn't a precedent that was argued in a case (it was a footnote in a case added by a clerk, actually) it is accepted by the courts as precedent, which is what the recent election law ruling saying corporations can spend unlimited money was all about.

        Knownothings call for constitutional amendments for stuff like taking away gay rights all the time... why does no one call for a constitutional amendment to REVERSE corporate personhood? It is probably one of the most important constitutional issues of our time and no one talks about it.

        And we talk about "strict consitutionists..." When you do the research, there is plenty of evidence that the framers of the constitution did not believe in corporate rights in ANY way. They were VERY sceptical of corporate rights because of their dealings with the East India Company.

        We are living through the looking glass when it comes to these issues today. Watch how this goes... people that are for corps. spending as much money as they want in elections say it makes things transparent... but give corporations privacy rights and all of a sudden they can spend all they want on any candidates and don't have disclose what they spend to anyone... and the corporations get even more rights!

        • Re:Short answer: no. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:40PM (#33741190)

          why does no one call for a constitutional amendment to REVERSE corporate personhood? It is probably one of the most important constitutional issues of our time and no one talks about it.

          Most of us (definitely me) aren't familiar enough with such issues to know that is the right way to solve the problem. If we force the issue, make a campaign to say corporations are not people, and they defeat it, won't that be used as further indication that they are in fact people?

          That and I think few people realize what's happened in the first place. If you ask people on the street about it, I think pretty much all of them would stare at you as if you were talking about trees having the right to free speech.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:11PM (#33740146) Homepage

      Do corporations accept personal responsibility?

      No...?

      So how can they possibly demand personal privacy?

      Sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.

  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmomo (256005) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @04:55PM (#33739930) Homepage

    When it can die like I can. When it can be taken off the streets indefinitely for doing harm to other people, the way I can.

    Same goes for free speech in my opinion.

    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:01PM (#33740028) Homepage

      I say even then, no. The reason we protect the privacy of individuals is because we recognize a need for human dignity, and that people have a right to private lives outside of the public sphere. Businesses, however, are public entities. They don't have "private lives". They don't go home to wives and children at the end of the day.

      • The reason we protect the privacy of individuals is because we recognize a need for human dignity

        Or to help protect us from overreaching laws by making those laws unenforceable.

    • When it can die like I can. When it can be taken off the streets indefinitely for doing harm to other people, the way I can. Same goes for free speech in my opinion.

      Careful, given your criteria corporations should have the right to privacy. I suspect that was not your intent. Judges can order that a corporation be dissolved for misconduct.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic (1469267)

        Judges can order that a corporation be dissolved for misconduct.

        He said "die like I can." When a corporation is dissolved, couldn't that just involve all the executives and assets parting ways, possibly temporarily? Maybe in most cases where that actually happens, the CEOs are convicted on charges and go to jail, and fines are imposed too, but -actually dying-?

        If we made it a law that if a corporation is convicted of significant fraud or other misconduct, all of the executives would be executed, the assets confiscated rather than any given back to the shareholders, ma

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by SETIGuy (33768)

        Judges can order that a corporation be dissolved for misconduct.

        And the last time that happened to a large corporation is....

    • by blair1q (305137)

      When it's not a "limited liability" and cash-pump for the people who really own it.

      When the public (including common shareholders) have full access to the corporate IP and proprietary info and material information so that they can make the same investing decision an insider can make.

      When corporations don't get subsidies from the government treasury.

      When a corporation doesn't amplify the political influence of its owners to be greater than the votes of the public.

  • Public Company (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HEbGb (6544) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @04:56PM (#33739936)

    As a public company, this is clearly material information that needs to be disclosed to all shareholders (current and potential). Once you start trading stock, your corporate right to privacy pretty much disappears, at least where possible criminal activity is concerned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by microbee (682094)

      Right, or allow me to IPO myself and collect money. Yes I'll disclose my whereabouts from time to time by tweeter and foursquare.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by blair1q (305137)

        Currently, you're only required to disclose the location of your headquarters (not your plant; i.e., a mail-drop, not your body), and certain elements of your financial state and activity (which are so loosely defined that you can report losses to be gains and gains to be losses in order to manipulate your stock price without fear of being accused of manipulation)...

    • by speroni (1258316)

      Can the FCC buy a share of the company and then demand the information, or would they need controlling interest?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Adambomb (118938)

        i think you're missing the point in that statement. if it is possible for anyone to buy shares in a corporation, the it is already bein publicly traded and ALL shareholders are supposed to have access to information that can affect the value of these shares.

        If it is a private company, no one can just up and say I'm buying shares in your company!! All investment terms are worked out as the owners of the private company decide (which has the side effect of making it more costly and difficult to get new inves

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by blair1q (305137)

        They can request a copy of the prospectus.

        That's it.

        Owning a share of common stock does not entitle you to anything the prospectus doesn't say you're entitled to. And the prospectus can say just about anything.

        The FCC wouldn't have to buy a controlling interest if it can get on the board, since the board generally has access to everything in the company. But the only sure way to get on the board is to buy a controlling interest. Though if the board decides they don't want you, it will have to be a hostil

  • Voting (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Companies already vote with their money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @04:56PM (#33739948)

    Rights exist or don't exist. Once you start to use the term "Do X deserve the right to Y?" you have already lost.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Since when are rights deserved? ... Rights exist or don't exist.

      You're misreading the phrase, badly. It doesn't ask if rights deserve to exist, but if corporations have rights and thus deserve to have them protected by law.

      When someone writes, "does a tree deserve the rights to life liberty and happiness", they aren't asking if rights are deserved, but if the tree has rights deserving of protection.

  • by Kidbro (80868) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @04:59PM (#33739994)

    Well, that was easy. Next question?

    • by waferhead (557795)

      Wasting a mod point to reply... Yes.

      I have no issue giving the corporation the right to vote as an individual... One vote...
      With the same limitations as to contributions an individual has. (one person) and prohibition of lobbying expenses over some trivial amount.

      Corporations have "owned" politicians for ages. Thats what must end.

      Here's what a "person" can contribute... Lobbying expenses perhaps should fall under these caps.
      http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/thepoliticalsystem/a/contriblaws.htm [about.com]

  • Conflict of Interest (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mandelbr0t (1015855) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:00PM (#33740014) Journal
    And in the case where corporate and individual privacy rights are in conflict, guess which way the courts will likely rule. While a privately-owned company may have the right to completely hide its business dealings from the public, a publicly-traded one like AT&T shouldn't be allowed to hide behind "privacy" concerns when the real issue is that they've been caught doing dirty business.
  • The problem with restricting privacy rights to individuals only is that ultimately no organization, corporate or not, will have privacy rights. Except perhaps churches in countries that grant them a special status. Beware the unintended consequences of a well intentioned idea.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      I fail to see a problem here. Corporations are not people, nor are other collections of people. The reason why individuals have a right to privacy which is enshrined in various portions of the constitution is that an individual has far, far more to lose than a corporate entity does if the information is made public.
    • by mark-t (151149)
      Even with the examples you've given, I'm not seeing how it's a bad idea.
      • by perpenso (1613749)

        Even with the examples you've given, I'm not seeing how it's a bad idea.

        You belong to a social advocacy or political group that makes a mistake on a tax filing. The IRS collects documentation including membership rolls. Now that membership roll is available through a freedom of information act request.

    • Except that a corporation is a special organization, with special privileges and responsibilities. A private, non-corporate club is not obligated to inform anyone of its financial status, nor is it required to seek profits, nor must it be chartered anywhere. None of the above is true of a corporation.
    • In my mind, corporations are an artifice created to grant certain specific protections to people above and beyond what individuals inherently have. Because of this, it is not unreasonable to expect certain trade-offs if it's practical. "Yes, we'll grant you these additional protections insofar as you're acting on behalf of this 'corporation', but you must give up these rights/protections in return."

      The right/ability to form corporate structures is not an inalienable human right, and forming corporate str

  • If corporations have personal rights, is that always the case, or only when the law in question fails to specifically distinguish between real people and companies?

    For example, my understanding is that McCain-Feingold was struck down becuase it limited the "free speech" of corporations.

    On the other hand, there are other laws I think, perhaps pertaining to voting, that absolutely must never treat corporations as identical to real people.

    • by hedwards (940851)
      The right to vote and the right to free speech are tightly enmeshed. There's only two things that a person can do which will result in them losing the right to vote, get convicted of a felony or give up ones citizenship.

      It was a serious joke to allow corporations and unions to have the same right to speech that individuals have. One of the biggest problems with the political system right now is huge amounts of money funneled in to the races. Allowing groups like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to sland
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Artifakt (700173)

        The right to vote and the right to free speech are tightly enmeshed.

        One of the smartest things said here. A person is exercising their own right of free speech when they actively seek to hear the speech of another, for example by looking for a candidate's web page and reading the candidate's platform. Not only is it a violation of the candidate's right for the government to block his or her speech, it's a violation of that same right in the listener, who may become the active speaker at just about any time.

  • If you want the right to privacy, then you need to be arrestable. Aka, if they are found guilty of a crime, then the entire corporation must go to jail. After all, if they can't be held responsible, then they shouldn't get the ability to hide their actions.
    • If you want the right to privacy, then you need to be arrestable. Aka, if they are found guilty of a crime, then the entire corporation must go to jail. After all, if they can't be held responsible, then they shouldn't get the ability to hide their actions.

      Corporate officers can be sued or prosecuted for their decisions and actions. Corporations themselves can be dissolved due to misconduct.

  • No, as in I don't think this was the intention of the authors of the Bill of Rights or the 14th amendment. But yes, as in this is consistent with the way the courts have always ruled; that the 14th amendment gives corporations all Bill of Rights protections. They decided this in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886. They have held this precedent for 114 years now. They have recently upheld this in the controversial recent Citizens United case. I think it's B.S. that corporations have
  • by DontLickJesus (1141027) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:10PM (#33740124) Homepage Journal
    Representation in our government is supposed to be reserved for citizens. Corporations are not citizens, as they are not PEOPLE! I would never go so far as to think that corporations should not hold a certain amount of protection under the law, but this is getting ridiculous.

    Corporations generally employ groups of people. The rights of this group should be decided based on the rights of the citizens involved. By giving corporations legal rights as individuals the US government is creating a subclass of citizens which have more rights than other citizens based on ownership & employment. This is completely backwards in that publicly traded companies are supposed to be publicly owned, and therefore "Personal Privacy" of corporations becomes nothing more than a farce for withholding information important to a public purchase.

    All lobbying should be done by virtue of the rights of an individual citizen, not some money machine. Remove this piece of corruption and require all companies lobbying before Congress to include a list of citizens they represent. This means employees & shareholders of these companies would have to agree to be on that list, for EACH LOBBIED SUBJECT. Very quickly we will all see the truth of who's interests are being represented.

    /RANT
    • by khallow (566160)

      The rights of this group should be decided based on the rights of the citizens involved.

      Already done. We do it by creating the legal fiction of corporate personhood.

  • by khallow (566160) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:11PM (#33740136)
    A decent-sized corporation at the least is equivalent to a public figure. So right there, they'd have a lower expectation of privacy than I would have as a private, nearly anonymous person. Second, I think it's already established that a regulated business which deals with the public has a lower expectation of privacy than a private person.

    Consider this. Suppose I personally were doing the business that AT&T was doing. Namely, my superdooper transhumanist implants or whatever allowed me to do the business of a few hundred thousand member corporation. Do I have an expectation of privacy that allows me to deep six an FCC report directly pertaining to my activities that I might find unfavorable to me? To be blunt, I don't think so. In other words, even if we grant a corporation the same privacy rights as a person, I don't see that a person would have an expectation of privacy in this circumstance.
  • They get the same privacy rights that the rest of us do. They get to have their browsing habits spied upon, their junk fondled at the airport, and all of their trade secrets given to hackers when a human happens to leave their private information on a public server like an idiot.

  • Consider the following: What if a corporation were allowed to vote - one corporation, one vote. How much would that change things, when there are millions of people voting? Indeed, if we could limit the influence of a corporation down to just one vote, that would likely be better than what we have now, where a corporation can influence millions of votes via "soft money" funding of political parties.

    In reality, it's not the idea that "corporations can vote" - it's the idea that "rich people, via corporations

  • Let Congress decide (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jeff1946 (944062) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:15PM (#33740198) Journal

    Corporations are legal entities defined by law and their rights should also be defined by law. Of course the Congress will do what is right for their contributors. So the people lose either way.

  • both are wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LOTHAR, of the Hill (14645) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:16PM (#33740214)

    The concept of rights isn't about what a person can and can't do, it's about limiting the power of government. Freedom of speech is a right. It's implementation in the first amendment is important. The first five words of the first amendment are "Congress shall pass no law". This is an important distinction from "People have the right to" or "People can say whatever they want". "none shall pass", it doesn't matter if it's a flesh wound or a mortal wound, Congress can't make restrictions. Whether people have rights that companies do not is moot. It's whether the government can or can't restrict certain activities.

    Some refer to the equal protection clause under these types of situations, but the notion of equality is only relevant if the two entities being compared are effectively equivalent. The notion that companies are equivalent to people is absurd. If companies are equivalent to people, how do you count votes for a company, and in what districts?

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CherniyVolk (513591) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:17PM (#33740224)

    A "Company" already is awarded benefits that are grotesquely wrong. One of my main complaints is that the law views a "Corporation" as a single entity, and in this course physical individuals are legally shielded from direct complaints. Only in the most extreme scenerio, oft brought to light by other equally powerful entities, can an individual or board room member be personally charged with a crime.

    So I think Companies, Corporations are granted free reign on any tyrannical act they deem profitable. This is already far too much in my opinion.

    Now, on to the issue brought up, under my premise that they already get away with murder, my main disagreement with the idea that they should be awarded personal Rights stems from another argument the have to circumvent immediate democratic measures; in other words, they argue that since they employ people that they inherently represent their views regardless under the assumption what's good for the company in turn is good for it's employees and thus surrounding society. This rationale is so flawed, one could write a book on how it's incorrect even without touching on giving jobs to foreigners or off-shore employees.

    The above argument basically boils down to public representation. If you are representing the interests of the public, then you should abide by rules, regulations and scrutiny of the public. Period, no other way around it, no argument suffices to contradict this demand. Companies can't have both to choose from whenever the situation best suits them. When they indirectly cause a famine in Africa.... they are a single entity and those involved aren't directly charged and convicted. When the government comes for them, then they want to hide behind Personal Rights as granted to individuals... all the while, they also have to abide by business laws, and international legislation....

    No, AT&T does not deserve explicit rights granted to Individual Citizens. They do not deserve the rights they already have.

  • Public (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anomalyx (1731404) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:24PM (#33740328)
    Take any random citizen - let's just say me, for example. Since AT&T is a publicly traded corporation, I can, at will, by shares in the ownership of AT&T. Since I have partial ownership, I should be able to see whatever non-confidential information of theirs that I want (by confidential, I mean stuff like credit card numbers, anything under a client-lawyer protection, etc.). Since anybody at all can buy shares, I'd say it would be far easier to make the publicly-traded company's information publicly available. At MINIMUM, the shareholders should get it. They own the corporation, after all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:30PM (#33740382)

    Recently on August 23rd this year, UNITED STATES v. HAVELOCK concluded that mailing threatening communications in violation of 18 U.S.C. 876(c), which makes it a felony to mail a communication addressed to any other person, does not apply to companies and corporations like news organizations. So since they are not persons, they should not be bound by personal privacy laws.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:32PM (#33740394) Homepage Journal

    Rights are not privileges. Privileges might be deserved or not. Rights are not "deserved": they are an inalienable feature of a person. Whatever the "creator" is, the creator of actual people that endowed people with inalienable rights is not a person (nor a government), and does not create corporations. People and governments create corporations, which do not have inalienable anything. Corporations are put together and made, and they can be separated from anything that makes them. They have no rights, only privileges actually assigned to the people who are the executives of the corporation.

    The entire notion that a corporation is a person is a legal fraud originally perpetrated as a scam [wikipedia.org] by a railroad monopoly. It's only though relentless corporate interference with the law in the US that corporations are treated as "persons" in any way. This fundamental injustice is the deepest flaw in our current democratic republic, and the source of the majority of our hardest to solve problems.

    As for privacy, the US government already fails to protect the privacy of actual people according to the enumeration in the Fourth Amendment [cornell.edu]: "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects". Somehow Supreme Court justices can read that specification and not recognize the right to privacy it not only recognizes, but actually enumerates. To protect the privacy of corporations as a matter of "right" would pervert the fundamental basis of the US government beyond any ability to take it seriously except as a public office of private corporate power.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:35PM (#33740430)
    "My friends, if the courts start granting rights to legal fictions, then what's to keep them from granting rights to fictional characters? Should you have the right to marry Harry Potter? Why not grant privacy rights to ghosts, or robots, or horses, or zombies? If a fictional zombie is on your property, breaking into your house, going to eat your wife, your daughter, your grandma, and you've got a loaded shotgun in your hands, do you want to have to stop and worry about its rights? How about video game characters? Should Duke Nukem have to worry about being sued by the mutants he's gunning down? I mean, where does it end? The time is 5:28..."

    .
  • Wait, AT&T? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:37PM (#33740444) Journal

    AT&T wants personal privacy rights? The guys who oh-so-helpfully set up special rooms for the NSA to intercept data traffic, thus violating the personal privacy rights of everyone using their network? That AT&T? Pay attention, Ms. Morissette, for THAT is ironic.

  • by Maltheus (248271) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:42PM (#33740518)

    There is no notion of collective rights in the constitution, only individual rights. Corporations (and LLCs) are state sponsored entities where businesses give up some of their rights in exchange for limited liability. By granting them the same rights as people, while still granting them limited liability, they're elevating corporations above individuals.

    Now if you're talking about a proprietorship or a partnership, then yes they should have privacy rights as their liability is the same as yours or mine.

    If AT&T doesn't want to play by the rules, then they should have their corporate charter revoked. Otherwise just shut up and enjoy your dance with the devil.

    • by hrvatska (790627) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:56PM (#33741904)
      The current status of large corporations in the US is something that the founders couldn't even imagine. Corporations as they now exist are unlike any entity at the time of this country's founding. If huge transnational corporations had the same influence in the 18th century as they do today I'm sure there would have been some provision in the constitution to protect individuals against corporations and to reduce their ability to influence legislation.
  • by BuckaBooBob (635108) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:02PM (#33740710)

    There is no way it should have any privacy... Its business practices should be part of public record...

    Even if it wasn't publicly traded... That information should be released to the public.. There is no accountability for bad business practices the people that gave it the thumbs up and let it go on.. Should be fired with no bonuses or golden parachutes.. They should be jail since they knowing defrauded people of money.

  • by DieByWire (744043) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:07PM (#33740786)

    Now we can rephrase the GM and bank bailouts.

    They weren't bailouts, they were healthcare for companies. And their healthcare records are private, so shut up, pay up and quit asking questions.

  • by cmholm (69081) <cmholm&mauiholm,org> on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:12PM (#33740838) Homepage Journal

    A corporation is not a natural person, it is a fictitious entity, and so by definition has no privacy to protect. Each individual can protect their individual privacy. The individuals can band together into an association and protect their freedom of association (to some degree).

    A corporation has trade secrets, which it protects as a proxy for the interests of the shareholders. There is already legislation and case law protecting trade secrets. A court should not confuse trade secrets with personal privacy.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:32PM (#33741658)
    Give them jail time:
    A company cannot operate for a certain number of years and must close its doors if they break laws.

    Give them proportional fines:
    If an individual person gets a $500 fine for a minor infraction, a company with 100,000 employees breaks gets a $50,000,000 dollar fine for every minor infraction. If a major infraction carried a $250,000 fine (like piracy does) the company will be on the hook for $25 billion

    Give them the death penalty:
    A jury can liquidate the company's assets for serious lawbreaking if a fine is un-payable or inadequate for the seriousness of the offense.

    Hold their executives personally accountable:
    No more hiding behind the corporation! If you gave the order to break the law, or your board agreed on such an order, you get to spend eternity in prison while your company gets liquidated.
  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @02:43AM (#33744274)
    MurryHill, Inc is running for the House in Maryland http://murrayhillweb.com/pr-012510.html [murrayhillweb.com]

    The campaign’s designated human, Eric Hensal, will help the corporation conform to antiquated “human only” procedures and sign the necessary voter registration and candidacy paperwork. Hensal is excited by this new opportunity. “We want to get in on the ground floor of the democracy market before the whole store is bought by China.”

    Murray Hill Inc. plans on filing to run in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. Campaign Manager William Klein promises an aggressive, historic campaign that “puts people second” or even third.

    “The business of America is business, as we all know,” Klein says. “But now, it’s the business of democracy too.” Klein plans to use automated robo-calls, “Astroturf” lobbying and computer-generated avatars to get out the vote.

    Considering how current congress members, such as Boehner, are already primarily representing corporate America, letting corporations be directly in congress will clearly save time and money. If we can just outsource the rest of the Government to a third world country then the dream of Regan Republicans will be fulfilled. The entire economy and running of the US will be done for the lowest price possible by private enterprise. Of course no US citizens except politicians, lobbyists, and corporate lawyers will have jobs, but that is a small price to pay for the ultimate Republican wet dream.

"It's like deja vu all over again." -- Yogi Berra

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