December 14th, 2009
01:00 PM ET
10 months ago

Justices will determine privacy of gov't workers' messages

The Supreme Court will determine whether a police officer has a 'reasonable expectation' of privacy on his official wireless two-way text-messaging pager.
The Supreme Court will determine whether a police officer has a 'reasonable expectation' of privacy on his official wireless two-way text-messaging pager.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - When Ontario, California, Police Sgt. Jeff Quon used his city-issued text messaging pager to exchange hundreds of personal messages, some of a "sexually explicit" nature, did he have a right to expect those messages would be kept private?

The Supreme Court decided Monday that it will determine whether a police officer has a "reasonable expectation" of privacy on his official wireless two-way text-messaging pager.

The justices accepted a pair of appeals on this free-speech and privacy dispute, and will hear oral arguments in the spring.

At issue is how far a government employer may go to monitor the private communications of its workers when they believe that the use of such equipment is being abused.

And the court will explore whether service providers can be held liable for providing those communications without the consent of the sender.

Full story


Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Enough

    The pager is NOT his, he has not right to use it for personal use and expect that it will be private...........do we really need the supreme court for this?

    December 14, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  2. Jane/Seattle

    Government Business=No Privacy for you.
    Home computer=Private Business.
    Government needs Transparency. Secrecy and back room deals are what is destroying our representation in Congress and every White House!

    December 14, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  3. Chanel

    After reading the full story, the city was overly intrusive, but the fact remains that, that was not his phone. When I use my email at work, I know that anything I send can be retrieved at any time, so if I want to send a personal message, I use my phone. It's common knowledge, the officer was in the wrong. Now my question is, to what extent was the details of his conversations made known? Was it just his superiors or was it passed around the shift. Because that would be another issue entirely.

    December 14, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  4. Peter E

    If you're using my taxpayer dollars, then I have a right to know what you're using them for. And if you misuse my taxpayer dollars, you should be fired and be demanded to repay my taxpayer dollars. It cannot be simpler than that! This shouldn't even be a court case... But I guess they think it's a GREAT use of taxpayer dollars to make some greedy lawyers even richer!

    December 14, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. Hugo

    This should be a one question and one answer issue, who pays the bill? If a Government employee is sending and receiving non-work related items on their employer provided communications device, then it should be work related. If they want to send sexmails, get their own blackberry...

    Let's waste some Supreme Court time with issues like giving pedophiles, rapists, drug traffickers, gangbangers and such the death penalty!

    December 14, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  6. shmeckel

    It will probably be the same outcome as employers watching your web browser content. If they own the equipment and pay all the bills then they have the right to see all the content. I understand this but I still think there should be something in place in both instances that the employer needs to make the employees aware that they will be reviewing all their private content.

    December 14, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  7. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    If you expect privacy, you shouldn't use communications devices provided by others.

    December 14, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  8. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    If this cop wants to send private messages, he needs to use his own equipment.

    December 14, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  9. Enough

    Why are we the tax payers still paying for this guys text message pager? He should be taxed on it since it is being used for personal business or like most employees are having to do, you get your own and the company pays you a portion of it.............taxed ofcourse.

    December 14, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  10. Justin

    He signed the form stating he has NO expectation of privacy on his work issued pager, he was sending on average 28 explicit texts DURING working hours.... I do not see why this is even going to the Supreme court. The company owns the device, the company expects him to work during the shift and not send hot and heavy texts on their time... Freedom of speech and privacy don't even come into it. If it were his pager and on his time then it would be completely different.

    December 14, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |