Can your Boss Read your Text Messages?

June 12, 2010



There is a case pending in front of the United Supreme Court that might revolutionize your Blackberry usage in years to come.  We all know that our employers can read emails sent using the company account and monitor computer usage, but what about the company-provided Blackberry and the text messages you send your friends, family, or significant other? Can your employer read those?

A California police officer used his department-supplied alpha-numeric pager to send racy text messages to his wife.  The police department eventually got hold of the text messages and, upon determining “someone was wasting…City time not doing work when they should be,” the police officer was terminated.  Quon v. Arch Wireless Operating Company, Inc., 529 F.3d 892, 898 (9th Cir. 2008).

In my view, the most interesting part of the case is whether the employee had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his text messages.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that he did.  The case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court and a decision is imminent.

To receive an email when the case is decided, run the following search on Westlaw.com:

Search: ti(Quon)
Database: SCT

When your results load, click on “Add Search to WestClip” at the top of the screen, just under the Edit Search box.   In the screen that comes up, you can name your clip and edit the delivery settings on the left side of the screen.