(CN) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to review a case questioning whether corporations like AT&T have a privacy interest in blocking the government from disclosing information about them.
The Obama administration had asked the justices to review a 3rd Circuit order requiring the Federal Communications Commission to consider AT&T’s privacy interests before releasing information about its billing practices.
CompTel, a trade association representing some of AT&T’s competitors, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the FCC’s investigative report of alleged overbilling.
AT&T participated in an FCC program called E-Rate, through which telecommunications companies provide equipment and services to schools and then bill the government for their costs.
In August 2004, AT&T voluntarily reported to the FCC that it might have overcharged for work done in a Connecticut school district.
CompTel wanted the FCC to hand over its investigative report, including internal emails detailing pricing and billing, and names of employees involved in the alleged overbilling.
AT&T asked the FCC to treat the documents as confidential, claiming they fell under a FOIA exemption for documents produced for law enforcement purposes.
The agency rejected this argument, but the federal appeals court in Philadelphia ordered it to reconsider.
“FOIA’s text unambiguously indicates that a corporation may have a ‘personal privacy’ interest” under the claimed exemption, Judge Michael Chagares wrote.
The high court has agreed to review FCC et al v. AT&T et al, docket number 09-1279.