Secure Communications

Sexting Case at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday in a case that could impact every American worker who uses a computer, blackberry or text messaging device–whether for innocent messages to loved ones or sexually-charged texts to a mistress.

A final ruling from the justices may establish guidelines on how far the right to privacy covers personal e-mail messages and other communications that workers send or receive on their employer-issued devices.

The use of email and text messaging is ubiquitous. A recent study concluded that 47 billion e-mails are sent worldwide daily. A different study calculated that Americans send nearly 5 billion text messages each day. Those reports do not distinguish messages sent from employer or personally-owned devices.

“Encouraging or allowing the personal use of company-provided communications devices produces significant business advantages, incentivizing employees to employ their devices ever more frequently, and thus to be ever more available-and willing-to attend to business tasks, in addition to personal ones,” lawyer Andrew Pincus wrote to the Supreme Court on behalf of several organizations in support of two police officers who sued their boss after he obtained a print out of their text messages.

Sergeants Jeff Quon and Steve Trujillo were part of the Ontario, California SWAT team who received pagers capable of sending text messages. Officials with the police department, located 35 miles east of Los Angeles, believed the pagers would help expedite internal communications especially during critical situations.

Several months after the pagers were issued, Quon’s boss asked for a read-out of his messages. As it turned out, most of Quon’s texts were not work related. “To say the least, [the messages were] sexually explicit in nature,” observed Judge Virginia Phillips. The majority of Quon’s personal messages went to his estranged wife, his office girlfriend and Trujillo.



April 17, 2010 - Posted by | BlackBerry, cellular phone, eavesdrop, mobile, privacy, security, spy, text message, USA

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