The U.S. Supreme Court agreed recently to consider whether government employers can view text messages that their workers send and receive on workplace devices. The case centers on whether a police officer in Ontario, Calif., had a right to privacy for the text messages he sent and received on a pager provided by the police department.
The city said the sergeant used his pager to send numerous personal messages to his wife, his girlfriend and another officer. Many of the messages were sexually explicit, according to the city. The police department obtained transcripts of the officers' text messages while investigating officers who repeatedly exceeded monthly character limits for the devices. The city's wireless provider released the messages' contents to the department.
The San Francisco-based Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the city's review of the messages was an unreasonable search, especially due to an informal police department policy stating it wouldn't scrutinize use of the pagers so long as officers paid the fees for usage exceeding monthly limits. The appeals court also said the wireless provider violated the federal Stored Communications Act when it turned over the transcripts. (workersxzcompxzkit)
The Supreme Court said that it would consider the city's appeal in the case, but it rejected a related appeal by USA Mobility. Oral arguments are likely to get under way next spring, with a decision expected by the end of June. The case is City of Ontario v. Quon, 08-1332.
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