The Supreme Court today narrowed public access to government documents by expanding the definition of "confidential" information. The 6-3 decision by Justice Gorsuch in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media overturns four decades of caselaw which held that a company must show substantial competitive harm to block an open government request. Writing in dissent, Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor, emphasized that the FOIA required some showing of harm to prevent public release of business records collected by federal agencies. "The whole point of FOIA is to give the public access to information it cannot otherwise obtain." In an amicus brief, EPIC warned the Court that removing the harm requirement "would deprive the public, and government watchdogs such as EPIC, of access to important information about 'what the government is up to.'" EPIC described several of its own FOIA cases -- including the now defunct airport body scanner program and the ongoing probe of Facebook -- where access to commercial records made possible meaningful oversight and reform. Twenty members of the EPIC Advisory Board, distinguished experts in law, technology, and public policy, signed the amicus brief.
The White House has published the 2019 update of the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan. The report sets out priorities for U.S. AI policy. The 2019 report carries forward seven recommendations from the 2016 plan. The plan underscores the need to address the ethical, legal, and societal implications of AI (Strategy #3), emphasizes safety and security (Strategy #4), and the development of standards and benchmarks (Strategy #6). A new recommendation "focuses on the increasing importance of effective partnerships between the Federal Government and academia, industry, other non-Federal entities, and international allies to generate technological breakthroughs in AI." The 2019 report acknowledges input from "researchers, research organizations, professional societies, civil society organizations and individuals." Common themes included "the importance of developing trustworthy AI systems, including fairness, ethics, accountability, and transparency of AI systems." EPIC also recommended that the US AI strategy incorporate the Universal Guidelines for Artificial Intelligence in national policy. As the report notes, "beyond purely data-related issues, however, larger questions arise about the design of AI to be inherently just, fair, transparent, and accountable."
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the OPM Data Breach case can move forward, reversing an earlier dismissal by a lower court. The case concerns the data breach at the U.S. Office of Personnel and Management in 2015 that affected 22 million federal employees, their friends, and their family members. The Court ruled that victims of the breach have the legal right, or "standing," to sue over the failure to protect their personal data. "It hardly takes a criminal mastermind to imagine how such information could be used to commit identity theft," the Court wrote. EPIC filed an amicus brief supporting the victims' standing and arguing that "when personal data is collected by a government agency, that agency has a constitutional obligation to protect the personal data it has obtained." The Court ruled that OPM did not violate the constitution in this particular case but left the door open to future lawsuits to enforce the right to information privacy.