A U.S. Supreme Court texting case will be heard in the 2010 session that will decide some interesting questions of emerging technologies law. Read about the case and tell us what you think in the comments about a reasonable expectation of privacy on company mobile devices.

supreme court texting case


The case docket is officially known as City of Ontario v. Quon, docket number 08-1332. Sgt. Jeff Quon was an officer in the Ontario Police Department in Southern California. The general facts of the case are that he along with other SWAT Team members were issued an official police department pager in 2002 to use for official business and light personal use.

The department reviewed the text messages sent from the pager and discovered (they say) that most of them were sexually explicit. The trial judge inferred that they were terribly graphic. This was well before “sexting” entered the public lexicon as a term to define sexual messages sent by mobile device.

Quon and other SWAT team members sued the department for infringing on their reasonable expectation to privacy by reviewing the text messages. They won in the lower court. An appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals went nowhere, but now what will be a landmark Supreme Court texting case will be heard by those technologically brilliant justices of the upper court.

The case puts employee interests against private interests, which is nothing new in case law but is new when it comes to electronic devices. Generally courts have found that there is no expectation of privacy in a workplace environment.

But will that same principle apply to mobile devices which are commonly used both inside and outside of the workplace? That is a far different issue than an immobile workplace computer sitting in an office cubicle.

Or is it? That is the real question behind this case. It’s a difficult call to predict where the Supreme Court texting case will go. My guess, however, is they will side on the right to privacy by a 5-4 decision.

View the video and then tell us what you think.


The Dangers of Texting (Video)