A federal appeals court Wednesday sharply limited the ability of employers to obtain e-mails and text messages sent by employees on company-financed accounts.
The text message portion of the ruling, issued by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, will affect all employers who contract with an outside provider for messaging, as most do. Access to e-mail would be barred if the employer contracts out its e-mail service rather than maintaining an internal server to handle it.
A majority of companies keep employee e-mail on their servers, analysts said. […]
The ruling also gives all government workers 4th Amendment protection against searches of text and e-mail communications by their bosses, lawyers said.
“This ruling is a tremendous victory for your online privacy, helping ensure that the 4th Amendment applies to your communications online just as strongly as it does to your letters and packages,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that advocates civil liberties in the digital world, said in an online posting.
Appellants assert that they are entitled to summary judgment on their Fourth Amendment claim against the City, the Department, and Scharf, and on their California constitutional privacy claim against the City, the Department, Scharf, and Glenn. Specifically, Appellants agree with the district court’s conclusion that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the text messages. However, they argue that the issue regarding Chief Scharf’s intent in authorizing the search never should have gone to trial because the search was unreasonable as a matter of law. We agree.
Slate/Volokh posting — Ninth Circuit Finds Fourth Amendment Protection In Text Messages