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back to article US Supremes to hear text-message privacy case

The US Supreme Court said Monday it will decide whether government employers can snoop on their workers' personal text messages if they're sent from department-issued devices. The justices agreed to review a federal appeals court decision that sided with Ontario, California police officers who complained their department …

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Flame

hypocrite

"Quon claims that he wasn't aware of the city's policy applied to his department "

Ignorance is not a valid defense. How many times have we heard that from plods?

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Grenade

Also "if he has nothing to hide, ..."

heh. Dose of own medicine.

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Bronze badge
FAIL

SCOTUS to hear text message case

Quite frankly, since it is an EMPLOYER owned device, they have NO privacy rights.

The 'rule' is quite simple: If you do not want anything done using an EMPLOYER supplied device known to your employer, THEN DO NOT USE IT FOR PERSONAL PURPOSES!

The second 'rule' is DO NOT EVER USE YOUR PERSONALLY OWNED DEVICES FOR EMPLOYMENT RELATED TASKS.

Is that so damn hard to understand??

Now move along, nothing to see!

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Unhappy

Increasingly difficult.

Whilst I agree with the principle of your argument, sadly modern life makes it very difficult to implement ... I have a works mobile, and a personal one ... if I want to call my wife on the way home from the car, which do I use ? Or if a friend wants to text me during the day, which number ... do I have to carry two phones ... give people 2 numbers ... things get even more blurred when as an employer, you say to a worker "you must carry this mobile to be on call" ... so you're out shopping, need to make/receive a call ... what do you do ? I recently had to be on call one weekend at a friends wedding. Because the works phone has a damn good camera, it made sense to use that (since I had to carry it anyway).

I have some sympathy with the workers here. I'm not saying that workers can take the p*ss, but I think there needs to be a acknowledgement that mobile comms technology has blurred the work/life boundaries a bit more .....

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Bronze badge
Unhappy

While Rome Burns ...

"Quon claims that he wasn't aware of the city's policy applied to his department and that an informal policy let officers use the device for personal messages as long as they paid for the overage charges."

This "informal" policy corrects the accounting problem. In this case, the City provides the Stamped Envelopes, the Service Provider has the "right" to read the address, and NOBODY except the sender has a right to the envelope contents.

Yes the Post Office can read your mail, under an official charter, as separate from the business of delivering mail. The "no expectation of privacy" claim is seriously flawed because there is no charter. An envelope supplier cannot claim a right to read your mail on the grounds that they make envelops.

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Silver badge

Who's phone is it?

Company owns phone, company pays bills, company supplies phone to employee for business purposes. Company has the right to monitor usage and content of communications.

Want to have a private conversation? Want to send a personal text message? Use your own phone.

Just an opinion.

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Gold badge

Re: Who's phone is it?

I don't know why El Reg bothers to write the body text of articles. They should stick to provocative headlines and let the comments flow. But anyway...

If you'd read the article, Quon claims that the company tolerated non-official use as long as the resulting bills were settled. So if he is telling the truth, the answers to your questions are...

"company owns phone, yes, in the same way that they own the toilets"

"company pays the bills for official use and employee pays the rest"

"Company supplies the phone for a mixture of official and personal use"

...which to my mind muddies the waters quite sufficiently.

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WTF?

in agreement with previous commentards

Anything you send from your own phone should be private. Anything you send from a company phone isn't. Simples.

Quon=Fail.

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Big Brother

re: no privacy rights

Seriously? No privacy rights for using employer-provided facilities?

I'd hate to have to use your company toilets!

I would imagine most people understand that company email runs through company servers. and is thus not "secure." I would not expect telephone-usage-monitoring to be any more than commonly expected - i.e. they can ready the bill (destination numbers, call length and cost), but not get transcripts of messages or conversations.

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WTF?

25,000-character text allowance ??

"exceeded their monthly 25,000-character text message allowance"

WTF? How do you monitor that? A limit on messages I could understand, you could even get a reminder when you exceeded it, but counting up the number of characters?

Surely even the backward US cellular services don't charge by the character?

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WTF?

What?

Seriously?

Oh come on. It's a _work_ phone. Yes, your employer should be fully entitled to monitor what you do with it. Get over it and get your own personal mobile.

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Bronze badge

What does "overage charges" mean?

I don't recognise that term, is it a typo? Or a special term for "fee for use of the device once the inclusive allowance is used up"? Or was he sending naughty texts to give old ladies a belated thrill (or old guys, why not?) I mean it'd be vastly different if he said underage", surely it isn't that at all.

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Grenade

Sigh ....

As I suggested previously, while I agree the principle of "employers phone, employers business" is not at issue here, I feel in the modern world it's not quite so clear cut. OK, so modern phones make it easier to carry 2, but there are all sorts of reasons why that may not be *practical*, some of which are employer-related. In these instances, it's not unreasonable to expect an employee to use their phone for personal calls/texts.

One thing we're not aware of here, is how the phones were distributed ... my employer has provided me a phone, and explicitly stated that whilst a low-level of personal calling/texts is acceptable (his words "use your common sense"), obviously thecompany will have records of all activity. So we've worked out a grown-up compromise. I can call the Mrs let her know I'm on my way home ... nothing wrong there. And I use my personal phone for the Ukranian sex-lines.

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FAIL

Yes, but no...

It's provided by the company, but a informal rule was set in place to say you needed to pay for any usage above 25000. Isn't that implicit recognition that the phone will be used for personal reasons, as all non-personal reasons would surely be covered by the 25000 limit?

If the user is paying for any usage over 25000, doesn't that change things? Is that a personal purchase?

I bet it started out as - you guys are getting phones for daily policing purposes. DOn't cary personal phones on you during day in case it reveals something about you, so just make a few on the work phones.

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Who's paying the lawyers?

Has the Supreme Court ever decided for individual privacy where the employing company provided the tools and service? Yet Quon has spent seven years to get to this point?

He'd have been better off claiming to be a sex addict who needed rehab.

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