Technology and Business Law Blog

Federal Court holds – Employee SMS messages Private under 4th Amendment

The 9th Circuit Court held that text messages of employees was private and the employees had a reasonable expectation of privacy to it even if the texting was done on the pagers given by the employer for official use.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a police officer and others who claimed that the city of Ontario, Calif., violated their Fourth Amendment rights, which provide citizens with a reasonable expectation of privacy, by reading the contents of their text messages. It also ruled that the company providing the department’s paging service falls under the Stored Communications Act. That means carriers cannot reveal the contents of SMS or text messages without authorization from the end user — even if the user is an employee. Read here.

The facts of the case was that police officers were given pagers for official use but they routinely used it for personal use too and reimbursed the police department for overage costs which were accepted. The department’s informal policy of accepting reimbursement and not auditing the communications led officers to expect privacy, which makes the search and seizure illegal and employers need to get a search warrant before they can got through an employees personal communication even if they used an employers devices.

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June 27, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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