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Supreme Court Takes Texting Privacy Case 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the hi-2-u-juj-scalia dept.
TaggartAleslayer writes with this excerpt from the NYTimes: "The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether a police department violated the constitutional privacy rights of an employee when it inspected personal text messages sent and received on a government pager. The case opens 'a new frontier in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,' according to a three-judge panel of an appeals court that ruled in favor of the employee, a police sergeant on the Ontario, Calif., SWAT team. ... Members of the department's SWAT team were given pagers and told they were responsible for charges in excess of 25,000 characters a month. Under an informal policy adopted by a police lieutenant, those who paid the excess charges themselves would not have their messages inspected. The lieutenant eventually changed his mind and ordered transcripts of messages sent and received by Sgt. Jeff Quon. In one month in 2002, only 57 of more than 456 of those messages were related to official business. According to the trial judge, many of the messages 'were, to say the least, sexually explicit in nature.'"
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Supreme Court Takes Texting Privacy Case

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  • by omnichad (1198475) on Monday December 14, 2009 @05:57PM (#30436824) Homepage

    Normally I'd agree with you, but the summary says they are explicitly allowed personal use and were told that the messages wouldn't be read.

  • by greymond (539980) on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:03PM (#30436916) Homepage Journal

    From the article...

    The Ontario Police Department had a formal policy reserving the right to monitor “network activity including e-mail and Internet use,” allowing “light personal communications” by employees but cautioning that they “should have no expectation of privacy.” The policy did not, however, directly address text messages.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:22PM (#30437134)

    He's a cop, he must know rule number 2:

    2. Never believe a word a cop says.

    Almost as important as rule number 1:

    1. Never talk to the police.

  • by Xaositecte (897197) on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:41PM (#30437362) Journal

    1. The official policy of the organization, that there was no expectation of privacy, has never been in question, and has never changed.

    2. A middle manager (The Lieutenant) made an unofficial policy that the text messages wouldn't be inspected.

    3. The inspection was not made simply because it was an organizational resource, it was made because the officer in sergeant in question was overusing his phone, and they wanted to find out why.

    The policy department as a whole never made any statements or policy that this was acceptable. The organization is not going back on it's word. The lieutenant in question is kind of an asshole for this, but he's not in the wrong legally.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:29PM (#30438056) Homepage

    This case is going to hinge on a lot of details that we don't have.

  • Re:Paid (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:30PM (#30438064)

    A work phone, paid for by the workplace, should be allowed to be inspected by the workplace. Just like email. Just like web traffic.

    In germany you have to be careful as company if you do so. If you (even implicitely) allow private use of your email system you become a "content provider" just like an ISP and are *not allowed* to look at your employees emails, in case they contain private material. Really great if you get fired at such a company and can hinder them to use the mails in your account :)

    That's why most companys (even the one I work for) have strict "no personal email, internet or files" in their contracts...

  • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:4, Informative)

    by ThreeGigs (239452) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:49PM (#30438302)

    The year is 2002, not 2009. SMS was not very prevalent at the time, and inter-provider SMS was still occasionally glitchy. That was the time of dedicated alphanumeric pagers waning in popularity while the 'cool kids who wanted to be like the drug dealers' were discovering SMS on their phones.

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