A much awaited decision by the Supreme Court of the United States came out last week. In City of Ontario v. Quon, the Court decided whether the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution provides privacy rights for text messages. Unfortunately, the Court did not take full advantage of its opportunity, and limited the opinion. According to the majority, there is limited expectation of privacy for employees in the public sector when it comes to reviewing cell phone text message records. However, the government supervisor must meet a few conditions before examining your phone.
1. You must receive your phone firm the government agency
2. You must have been told in advance that your messages are subject to viewing
3. The examination of your messages must be for work related purposes
4. The review must be based on some grounds of misuse, but not for criminal investigation purposes
5. Your supervisor should delete messages you sent while off duty before reviewing the messages transcript
The Court did not discuss the impact of the decision on private employment. Justice Scalia, in a rather criticizing dissent, stated, “Applying the Fourth Amendment to new technologies may sometimes be difficult, but when it is necessary to decide a case we have no choice.”. He went on to opine that the limiting holding will only serve to confuse the lower courts.
What does this mean for you? The question of cell phone privacy is still up in the air. It is a privacy right worth fighting for, at least until the Supreme Court gets a little more specific.