Police Case At High Court May Have Big Impact On Internet Privacy


Next week the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue of whether personal text messages are private when transmitted over an electronic device supplied by an employer, reports National Public Radio. Members of the Ontario, Ca., police SWAT team were told that if members paid for personal messages beyond the 25,000-character limit per month, the department would consider the messages private and would not review them. The agency then changed the rules and reviewed them anyway.

Sgt. Jeff Quon and three people with whom he had exchanged e-mails sued the department for violating their privacy. A federal appeals court ruled that the department had violated the texters’ reasonable expectation of privacy. The high court’s decision could have huge repercussions — it is the first case testing privacy rights in the Internet age. While this case involves text messages, its reasoning is likely to apply to e-mail, Facebook messages, maybe even surfing the Web. The constitutional nub of the case is the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches, and whether this sort of text monitoring violates the privacy rights of government employees.

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