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Court to rule on employee text message privacy rights

CA Supreme Court to consider employer access to employee messages. The Supreme Court of California said Monday (12/14/09) it will decide how much privacy workers actually have when sending and receiving text messages from company accounts. The justices will review a federal appeals court decision that agreed with Ontario, CA, police officers who complained that the police department improperly accessed and read their text messages. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco, CA) also named their text service providers for
allowing employers access to the exchanges. without the officers' consent. Users of text-messaging services have a “reasonable expectation of privacy" regarding messages residing on the service provider's network said Judge Kim Wardlaw. Both the city of Ontario and USA Mobility Wireless, Inc., who owns the text-messaging service, have appealed to the 9th Circuit. The justices originally turned down the company's appeal, but said they would schedule a hearing during the spring 2010 in the city of Ontario’s case. The appeals court ruling came following a suit filed by Ontario police Sgt. eff Quon and three other officers after the previous wireless service provider (Arch Wireless) provided the officers’ superiors with transcripts of Quon's text messages in 2002. Police officials ststed they were reading the messages solely to determine whether pagers issues by the department were being used only for work purposes.
The city said it discovered that Quon had sent and received hundreds of personal messages, including many that were sexually explicit. Quon and the others said the police department had an “informal policy” of not monitoring the pager and text messages as long as employees paid for messages in excess of monthly limits. The implications of a final ruling will no doubt be followed closely by all companies as they seek additional protection from attempts to include them in lawsuits of not only a sexual nature, but also character damages leading to expensive monetary settlements.  Click on the "Subscribe" link above to receive notices of Terry's latest articles or to chat live: click here

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