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Privacy Businesses Government The Courts Politics Your Rights Online

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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  • 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.

  • Re:Citizens United (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:29PM (#33740372) Journal

    Corporations do not have rights, but the individuals organized in them do not lose their rights just because they organized.

    I heartily agree with this, and firmly disagree with the Citizens United ruling. Before Citizens United you lost no rights by incorporating. None. ZERO Every person in the country was free to say anything he wanted, and donate as much as he wanted. You could even organize with your friends and speak as a group.

    What you couldn't do was incorporate and use that corporation as a political tool. See, corporations are an artificial construct. The government is under no obligation to recognize the existence of corporations. They could abolish the concept of the corporation entirely, and that would have no affect on your free speech rights. Since the corporation is a construct created entirely by the government, they get to define the scope of that construct.

    So you see, limits on corporations have nothing to do with your personal rights to free speech and free assembly. You had exactly the same amount of free speech rights before Citizen's United as you would have in the absence of corporations. Anything the government chooses to facilitate with corporations is a bonus above and beyond your natural rights.

  • Re:Public Company (Score:3, Informative)

    by Adambomb (118938) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:37PM (#33740456) Journal

    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 investment than publicly traded companies, it's a trade-off

    choose to go public and you choose to lose the privacy in the hopes of gaining better, easier investments based on the rise in your company's value.

  • Re:Public Company (Score:3, Informative)

    by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @05:43PM (#33740522) Journal

    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 hostile takeover. That's provided there is a board.

  • 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!

  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @06:57PM (#33741336) Homepage

    Judges can order that a corporation be dissolved for misconduct.

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

  • Re:Discrimination? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Artifakt (700173) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @07:29PM (#33741628)

    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. The right to vote itself includes the right to find out what the candidate you are voting for claims to stand for, and the right to criticise or announce your support of that candidate (or referendum or whatever). Thousands of closely related actions to the actual voting itself, such as posting signs or writing letters, are all free speech, and even donating money has a free speech component according to the court. Saying that a corporation cannot actually cast a vote, but it still enjoys all the related rights in the political arena, is claiming that the right to vote itself is merely the right to flip a lever or touch a screen, and has nothing to do with the process of making up your mind whom or what to vote for. Ultimately, it's an argument that just so long as the system still lets people physically access the voting machines, then efforts to keep them from learning about what they are voting on are not violations of their rights.

  • Re:Really (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Wednesday September 29, 2010 @10:49PM (#33743134)

    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:both are wrong. (Score:3, Informative)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @02:42AM (#33744268)

    Conflating: to bring together, to fuse. You might want to understand the way I'm using a word in order to understand what I'm saying.

    The whole does not have to inherit the rights of its parts. Does a government have the same rights as the individuals it is made up of? Of course not. There is a reason for it, and it has to do with the pragmatism of creating a government that can actually benefit society.

    You're also inventing a new definition for "corporation" when you say that it is any organization of people. It isn't. There are very specific rules that organizations have to obey in order to enjoy the benefits of a corporation. You can find that definition in any federal or state law dealing with "corporations'. This also means that rules for corporations are already different from the ones governing the superset of "any organization". This in turn means that your argument that any infringement on corporate right implies infringement of any organization's right is nonsense.

    any analogy that attempts to explain corporate personhood by starting with "You do/want"

    Didn't happen in the chain of the thread leading up to this point.

    True, literally, it didn't. However, your driver's license argument did involve the argument of "your free speech", which implies that it is directed at a person. Your analogy implicitly requires that a corporation is a person, and explains nothing about how that similarity arises. In other words, your analogy is begging the question. In further words, your analogy doesn't and can't work.

    The push against corporate personhood is a direct assault on the individual rights of the people who participate in that corporation. It's interesting that you mention the Citizens United case. That was a clear cut example of government power being used to infringe the First Amendment rights of the people who made up the Citizens United organization.

    Bullshit. Each individual in that organization has the exact same rights as any individual outside that organization, once they stop acting on behalf of that organization. See the difference? They're either acting on their behalf, or on the behalf of the organization - which, in the problem we're discussing, is a corporation. It's like a lawyer discussing legal arguments: there is a significant in how they can talk about a case, depending on whether they're directly involved in it or not. Same applies to people involved in a corporation. There are differences in how they can participate in the democratic process, depending on whether they're acting on behalf of themselves or the corporation. At least, there was until the Citizens United case.

    To reply to your specific points:
    1) Do we have to wait until something becomes a problem before we attempt to solve it? I hope you're not a civil engineer. Just to give you something to think about: what if CNOOC plows a couple of $100M into the 2012 elections?
    2) Statement of opinion that you pass of as fact. The entire discussion is around whether this is true - and so far, you haven't shown anything that indicates you're right.
    3) Corporations were able to function just fine before they were allowed to directly plow money into elections. Your premise is wrong.
    4) Considering you don't even have a clue how a corporation is defined, I'd be careful throwing around the clueless argument. Not to mention that an ad hominem argument doesn't work, even if it might be true.

    If you think these arguments are setting anybody straight, you're delusional. Start with getting some basic facts right, drop the personal attacks and stop putting words in other people's mouths, and we might go somewhere. In the meantime, have a nice day.

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