Supreme court probes text privacy

Posted by Nigel Constantine

The US Supreme Court is ruminating on whether employees have a right to privacy when they send text messages on electronic devices supplied by their bosses.

It is the final battle of a bunch of coppers who were miffed that their bosses read their SMS messages, some of which were a bit rude.

Police sergeant Jeff Quon and three other officers claim that the chief copper violated their rights under the Fourth Amendment to the US constitution, which forbids ''unreasonable searches'' by the government.

Apparently it is going to take until June to consider the question.  Any decision will result in new workplace rules in government agencies.

While the Fourth Amendment applies only to the government, many judges rely on the Supreme Court's privacy rulings in deciding disputes in the private sector.

The Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the officers had a ''reasonable expectation of privacy'' in their text messages. This was because they had been told by a supervisor that they could use their pager for personal use.

This was the opposite to a City policy which said that employees had no guarantee of privacy when using computers, phones and other devices owned by the city.