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Prechtel v. FCC, No. 17-1835, 2018 WL 4374924 (D.D.C. September 13, 2018) (Cooper, J.)


Prechtel v. FCC, No. 17-1835, 2018 WL 4374924 (D.D.C. September 13, 2018) (Cooper, J.)

Re:  Request for records pertaining to comment submission relating to the "Restoring Internet Freedom" proceeding

Disposition:  Granting in part and denying in part the parties' cross motions for summary judgment

  • Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege: The court determines that emails containing "'internal deliberations among IT staff regarding how to respond' to an inquiry about comment submissions" are protected by the deliberative process privilege and that the agency's declaration was sufficiently detailed.
  • Exemption 6: The court finds that Exemption 6 does not apply to email addresses of commenters that submitted bulk comments, explaining that "bulk [comment] submitters' had ample indication that their email addresses could be made public, mitigating any expectation of privacy" as a result of notices in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and the text in the online comment submission tool.  Although the court states that the bulk commenters had some privacy interest in their email addresses, it determines that the FOIA public interest requires release.  The disclosure sought "would clarify the extent to which the Commission succeeded—as it assured the American people it had – in managing a public-commenting process seemingly corrupted by dubious comments" and "would illuminate . . . efforts to prevent fraud in future processes."    
  • Exemption 7(E): The court finds that "electronic server logs detailing all dates and times that .CSV files were submitted" were properly withheld in full because "'release of the server logs would reveal sensitive information regarding its IT architecture, including security measures it takes to protect its systems from malicious activity.'"  Release would "[give] future attackers a 'roadmap' to evade the Commission's future defensive efforts."  The court agrees with the defendant that the server logs are not reasonable segregable and "FOIA does not require it to craft complicated algorithms" to satisfy the request.
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 5
Exemption 5, Deliberative Process Privilege
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(E)
Updated November 29, 2021