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Supreme Court Takes Texting Privacy Case 184

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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  • Paid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:56PM (#30436814) Homepage

    A work phone, paid for by the workplace, should be allowed to be inspected by the workplace. Just like email. Just like web traffic. Any abuse of this system, however, should be punished harshly and swiftly. If you want to sext each other, get your own damn phones. I'm sure evidence logs don't need a whole lot of, "Lol hang on let me beat this black guy for being black" mixed with "Done beating him here's a picture of my dick" when at trials.

  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @06:58PM (#30436856) Journal

    From the Summary:

    The lieutenant eventually changed his mind

    And that's all thats required to know they were in the wrong. If they were going to change their mind, they need to inform their employees that the change is occuring, and that his privacy will then be at stake. They should only be able to check pager transcriptions after that day.

    You can't say one thing and then do another, even if it's to stop sexually implicit messages. Deceipt cannot be tolerated at any level of government.

  • by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:02PM (#30436900)
    Browsers with "Stealth" (porn) browsing features, schoolkids sending naked pictures of themselves via cellphone, laptops loaded with porn, and you really expect company pagers not to be used to shmooze with others?
  • by Xaositecte ( 897197 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:10PM (#30436998) Journal

    Again, formal written policy trumps informal policy.

    The lieutennant in question didn't have the authority to change formal policy, so his personal assurance should mean jack shit in a legal battle.

  • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:11PM (#30437010)

    "Under an informal policy adopted by a police lieutenant,"

    A policy that isn't written down can't be relied upon. It's subject to change at a moment's notice.

  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:14PM (#30437050) Journal

    Gimme a break. I didn't realise the police were clergy! What law was this guy breaking by sending sexually explicit messages? As for the issue of using police equipment for personal messages, if this was permitted at the time, again what's the problem? If he was breaking a law why isn't this what we're hearing about rather than the fact that he liked to talk dirty?

  • by Xuranova ( 160813 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:24PM (#30437164)

    I think it would if the defense got the right lawyer.

    Your direct supervisor tells you, you can go home early, no need for you today.
    You leave.
    For one reason or another, HIS supervisor felt you shouldn't have left and fires you.
    I'm pretty sure with the right lawyer one can argue, you had a reasonable expectation that it was okay for you to leave and not suffer the consequences, despite what the policy and your supe's supe said.

    This isn't really any different, if your superior says its okay for you to do something, and someone over his head comes down on you for it, you have a defense.

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:29PM (#30437220)

    According to the trial judge, many of the messages 'were, to say the least, sexually explicit in nature.'

    ...and, what? Is there a policy against it? Was the other party a co-worker? Why is this remotely relevant?

    The policy states:

    The use of inappropriate, derogatory, obscene, suggestive, defamatory, or harassing language in the e-mail system will not be tolerated.

    So if I were to exchange sexually explicit messages with my wife, for example, how does the policy apply? It would then be appropriate, favorable, natural, explicit, complimentary, and welcome. What happens now?

    “[u]sers should have no expectation of privacy or confidentiality when using these resources.”

    And likewise, people peeking in my bedroom window should expect to see my hairy butt from time to time. Don't want to see, don't look. Look, you get what you asked for...

    The closest thing I can find is this:

    Chief Scharf referred the matter to internal affairs “to determine if someone was wasting . . . City time not doing work when they should be.”

    Hey, Chief, they were. Investigation over. Chances are, you were, too, unless you somehow work your entire shift without periods of non-work time. That includes your bathroom time, sir. The salient question should be, were any dollars actually wasted? Was there any SWAT not getting done because of the excessive pager use?

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @07:57PM (#30437624)

    How do you reconcile your fascist attitude with the fact that a case about this question is going before the Supreme Court?

  • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Monday December 14, 2009 @08:06PM (#30437746)

    Well, it’s all about forbidding the “lower class” to reproduce.

    When chatting about sex is forbidden, but chatting about who you just shot is OK, you know that something is fucked up beyond all recognition.

  • Re:Absurd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @08:14PM (#30437846) Journal

    It's their property. That's what makes it ok for them to search it.

    If I lend you my car are you going to deny me the right to search it and see what you are doing with it?

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @08:19PM (#30437924)

    Personal phones, rather than employer-supplied ones. That way it would be free from employer snooping, and free to use

    and the ever-paranoid geek won't see any problems at all in allowing undocumented use of private phones and messaging services by police officers on duty?

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Monday December 14, 2009 @08:35PM (#30438152)

    Unless of course your employer told you that you could use it for personal use if you covered those charges. Then when that employer turns around and changes their mind without telling the employees and then takes action against said employee's for doing exactly what they were told they could do.

    It's called lieing, not changing your mind. The supervisor lied to the employees, either that or he got angry at the employee in question and decided to change the policy for this one employee so he could find a reason to retaliate against him. Either way without formal notice that the policy had changed the employee is abrogated of any responsibility for personal use IMO and content is irrelevant unless it was creating a hostile work environment and he had the complaint to prove it. In that case he owed the employee a warning about the change in policy before taking action. The supervisor should be fired IMO.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @07:18AM (#30442340)
    Logical != legal defense

    Remember which website you're on, and the innumerable bad laws which defy logic. The qualifier GP missed was "IANAL"
  • Re:Paid (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:10AM (#30443528)

    Agreed. There is definitely no expectation of privacy on a pager that does not belong to you.

I've got a bad feeling about this.