Thursday, September 20th 2018

Supreme Court: Employee Issued Cell Phones Not Protected Under Privacy Rights

It seems to happen all the time – people become addicted to their cell phones. From Blackberries to iPhones to the Droid, smartphones have given us a way to instantly connect to the world from the palm of our hand. Used to sharing personal messages, work related emails or even funny Youtube videos, the line between your social life and work responsibilities on your phone can become easily blurred. Most people are very protective of their personal cell phone, but what if your phone was issued to you from your employer? Do your rights change in terms of your privacy?

The Supreme Court was asked just that last month in the case of Ontario, California v. Quon, after a supervisors reviewed personal messages on a police officer’s department issued pager. As it turns out, the officer, Sgt. Jeff Quon was using the pager to send sexually explicit messages despite warnings that messages may be monitored. Still, Quon argued the searches were illegal and violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

How would you rule on this case? Even though the phone was issued by a governmental agency, should a phone or pager be protected under Fourth Amendment rights because of an individual’s daily use? Or should people know not to send private messages in the first place?

The Supreme Court ruled against Quon and established a new legal standard for these kinds of privacy cases – when government employees are issued interactive communication devices, and they are told ahead of time they will be monitored, the government agency can look into employees’ communication log without violating their constitutional rights.

Many see this ruling also extending into private sector jobs. Other than the fact that they are not government workers, as long as employees are notified that their messages may be monitored, this ruling could extend to private companies as well. Since private employers can easily set their own policies, most could easily put this rule into effect.

So you might want to think twice next time before sending a personal message on your company phone. Before you hit send, is it something you would really like your boss to see? You might want to even think about getting a second phone; we all know it’s a slippery slope once you start mixing business with pleasure.

Published by Rachel on July 21, 2010 at 3:57pm.

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