U.S. 9th Circuit Protects Privacy of workers’ Text Messages

The U.S. 9th Circuit appeals court ruled yesterday on the privacy of employees’ text messages and e-mails. The ruling makes it more difficult for employers to read correspondence sent by workers on company accounts. The ruling makes it illegal for employers that contract an outside business to transmit text messages to read them unless the worker agrees. Employee e-mails can only be read by employers if they are kept on an internal server.

The appellate ruling springs from a lawsuit filed by Ontario police Sgt. Jeff Quon and three other officers. They sued after wireless provider Arch Wireless turned over transcripts of Quon’s text messages to the Ontario police department. Police administrators read them to determine whether department-issued pagers were being used solely for work purposes.

A lawyer for the city of Ontario and its police department says his clients will probably appeal the ruling, which means the case could go before a six judge panel of the 9th Circuit or the Supreme Court of the United States.