Are your text messages private at work?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would decide whether privacy rights covered a worker’s personal text message on employer-owned equipment, hearing a case about a police officer who sent sexually explicit messages from his department-issued pager.

Medialawprofessor comment: This could be a landmark case. While it involves privacy, it also crosses the line into employment law and certainly can help define the developing cyberlaw. The case is: 08-1332 ONTARIO, CA, ET AL. V. QUON, JEFF, ET AL. Cert granted by USSC on 12/14/09.  The usual test for privacy is whether a person has an “expectation” of privacy.  If you are standing on a public street corner, you do not have an expectation of privacy.  If you are inside of your own house, however, you do have an expectation of privacy.  When using employer equipment, ie cellphones, pagers, email, etc. the past cases have usually come down clearly that the employee does not have an expectation of privacy as to his or her employer looking at their emails, etc. that are hosted on company property (email servers).  Could this grant of cert be a signal that the USSC is going to change the majority rule?

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