US Supreme Court Rules 9-0 – Employer Had Right to Text Messages

18 June 2010 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

The Ontario, CA Police Department (OPD) did not violate the 4th Amendment by reviewing text messages sent from a work pager. Apparently the OPD’s warrantless audit found Officer Quon had sent or received 456 messages, but only 57 were work-related. The OPD Computer Policy included the following provisions that the OPD “reserves the right to monitor and log all network activity including e-mail and Internet use, with or without notice. Users should have no expectation of privacy or confidentiality when using these resources.” The Court ruled that the “warrantless review of Quon’s pager transcript was reasonable ... because it was motivated by a legitimate work-related purpose, and because it was not excessive in scope.” Today so many employees use cell phones and PDA provided by employers that surely the Supreme Court’s ruling will impact all employees, not just government employees.

Privacy Ruling in California Court

The Supreme Court ruling in the Quon case should also impact the May 26, 2010 ruling where US District Judge Margaret Morrow ruled that messages posted on Facebook and MySpace may not be subpoenaed. Based on the Supreme Court ruling in Quon, employees who post private messages on social media using their work computers, cell phones, or PDAs may not be able to claim privacy communications. The ruling in the Quon case is one more reason for Congress to review the 1986 Stored Communications Act given the use of social media communications. Stay tuned on how the Quon ruling will impact all businesses.

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