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Supreme Court Rules On Corporate Privacy 408

heptapod writes "The Supreme Court unanimously decided (PDF) Monday that AT&T can't keep embarrassing corporate information that it submits to the government out of public view; 'personal privacy' rights do not apply to corporations. 'We trust that AT&T will not take it personally,' concluded the ruling."
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Supreme Court Rules On Corporate Privacy

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  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @11:13AM (#35356908) Homepage Journal

    we still have quite a few other personal rights that have been given to corporations that shouldn't have

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @11:27AM (#35357078)

    This is about interpreting the FOIA, not Constitutional rights, so the "rights" involved are whatever Congress wanted to specify in the law, which could have included things relating to corporations if Congress chose to.

    Congress wrote in the FOIA that people can generally request government records, and the government must respond to such requests, except in a list of specific exceptions where the agency is allowed to withhold them. If Congress had wanted to, they could have included "the request would reveal sensitive information about a corporation" in the list. This case just holds that Congress did not in fact include such an exception, implicitly or otherwise.

  • Re:Don't Worry AT&T (Score:4, Informative)

    by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @12:05PM (#35357498) Homepage Journal

    I believe that is direct contributions, not total political expenditures.

    Take the Koch brothers recent activity in Wisconsin. They donated $43,500 to Governer Walker's election campaing. But, they also donated $1M to the Republican Goveners association (which spent over $2M in Wisconsin) and funded another $2+ million in political activity in Wisconsin through their Americans for Prosperity PAC.

    So if you look at the Koch's contribution to Walker, it doesn't seem all that significant. But if you look at their spending, it's tremendous.

    True, that example is at the state level and the list you linked to is at the federal level. But I would really be surprised to find that that chart includes all investments besides direct contributions by all PAC and subsidiaries and their PACs by all of the groups listed.


  • by matt_gaia ( 228110 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @12:40PM (#35357996)

    What happened with CU is that previous to the case, individuals in a corporation were allowed to make political contributions to whoever they chose to (up to the personal limit, which is $2400, IIRC). In the ruling that came down, corps were then allowed to donate whatever they wanted to out of their own accounts, and essentially without limits. So, because of this (monumentally bad) ruling, corporations could essentially drown out the voices from individual contributors, by spending millions from the corporate accounts on their favorite candidates.

  • by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @01:05PM (#35358376)

    I have to assume that there must be some distiction between the two in the US too, though it is smaller than elsewhere.

    There's an excellent (and funny) summary of the oral arguments at Slate. []

    To sum it up less elegantly, the issue is the Freedom of Information Act which defines an exemption for "personal privacy". It also defines many other exemptions that apply to corporations.

    The case hinged on whether artificial persons such as corporations had a right to "personal privacy". A lower court had said yes --- based more or less on an argument-by-grammar. "Personal privacy" contains the root "person", and hence all persons must have it.

    The Supreme Court decision pointed out that this is not much of an argument. Flesh and blood people have "personal space" and "personal issues", but corporations probably don't. They also pointed out that the legislators had clearly written exemptions into the law that applied to corporations, and so AT&T was asking for essentially a massive extension in what the law does vs. what Congress had intended.

    It gives me a small amount of confidence in this court to see them rule against a major extension of rights for corporations. Maybe it will become a trend.

  • by mrvan ( 973822 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @01:08PM (#35358414)

    Corporate personhood is not invented to protect 'natural', 'constitutional' or 'legal' rights of persons.

    For one thing, the concept originates from before the US constitution. It at least dates back to the Dutch East Indies company (1608 IIRC). Separating investment from liability (other than the invested sum) is a means to allow a multitude of people to invest in a company without the risk of being taken down in a bankruptcy (for more than their invested sum). It is a pure tradeoff between the the security of the investors and the rights of creditors and has nothing to do with enforcement of pre-existing rights.

  • by jimrthy ( 893116 ) on Wednesday March 02, 2011 @02:48PM (#35359798) Homepage Journal
    Ah, yes. Good ol' Dutch East Indies. We really should have learned from their monstrous example, realized corporate personhood is one of the single worst ideas ever, and moved back to sanity.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant