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Should Employers Be Allowed To Read Your Text Messages?

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Smartmom's picture
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OK here is a question that came up in the Sepreme Court (not yet ruled on). Does a employer have the right to read your personal text messages? What if they are made on a company phone? Now what if you partially pay for that company phone?

Here is the case that came up in front of the Supreme Court Ontario v. Quon.

Back in 2001, the city of Ontario, California purchased text messaging pagers for some of its first responders, including the police department's SWAT team. The city's contract included limits on how many characters could be transferred per page or per month; after 25,000 characters, the city would incur an overage charge on that particular device. Users who routinely incurred such overages could have their messages audited to make sure they were truly work-related.

SWAT Sgt. Jeff Quon enjoyed using his pager. He routinely exceeded the monthly character limit on the device; later, department officials found that Quon was sending an average of 28 text messages per shift—only three of which would have any relation to work.

Quon says that he agreed to pay for the overage charges and was told that was fine. He did this for some time, but his Lieutenant apparently got tired of collecting extra money every month and decided to report Quon's routine overages to the city. Despite Quon paying the overage fees, the city pulled a record of his text messages and read through them.

So what are your thoughts on this? Did the city have the right to read his personal text messages? At what point is it a invasion of privacy? Who here uses a "work" phone for personal use also?

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missb's picture
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Re: Should Employers Be Allowed To Read Your Text Messages?

I don't think they had the right to read them, as long as he agreed to pay for them, it should have been enough.

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