In August 2004, AT&T discovered it may have overcharged the government for services and equipment the company provided to schools through the Federal Communications Commission-administered E-Rate program. AT&T voluntarily reported the billing irregularities to the FCC, which investigated, and by December of that year the matter was settled, with AT&T agreeing to pay $500,000 and enter a corporate compliance program. Case closed.
The 3rd Circuit's decision surprised Mary Albert, assistant general counsel of CompTel, which made the FOIA request for information on the AT&T investigation. All bets are off for the Supreme Court's interpretation of the issue, she says--while other companies have invoked the personal privacy exemption to attempt to prevent FOIA releases, courts have struck them down. FCC v. AT&T marks the first time the argument has been taken so far.
Processing for Privacy
If the Supreme Court affirms the 3rd Circuit, Albert says it will have a significant impact on how the government processes FOIA requests. First it will have to figure out what "personal privacy" might encompass for a corporation.