A nonprofit advocacy group, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, has filed a “friend of the court” brief, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a case that expands the personal privacy exemption of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
In the case (FCC v. AT&T, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, No. 08-4024, 2009), the appeals court ruled that the public-records exemption that allows law enforcement to withhold information that could threaten personal privacy could be applied to companies as well as individuals.
(For more on FOIA and private institutions, see "Should the Freedom of Information Act Apply to Private Prisons.")
In its brief, the advocacy group noted that the ruling allows companies to withhold information to prevent potential feelings of embarrassment about their own conduct. The brief notes that “such a ruling permits a veil of secrecy to cover records that are at the heart of FOIA’s goal, and directly contravenes Congress’s purpose…which was, in part, to clarify that records concerning government oversight of industry are to be made freely available to the public.”
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