In addition to contemplating the future of Sarbanes-Oxley and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, the U.S. Supreme Court also recently decided that an employer did not violate its employee's privacy rights by reading text messages he sent and received on employer-owned devices.
According to The Washington Post, in City of Ontario v. Quon, the court found that the Ontario, Calif. police department did not violate Sgt. Jeff Quon's rights when it searched and read the text messages he sent and received using department-issued devices. That many of the texts were sexually explicit messages to Quon's wife, mistress and coworker seemed irrelevant.
Writing for the unanimous court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Quon's expectation that all of the texts would be immune from any scrutiny was not reasonable, especially considering that Quon frequently exceeded his limit, that most of the messages were personal, and that all were sent and received on department-issued devices. That's not to say, however, that employers can search employee texts on employee-owned phones or pagers with impunity, Kennedy cautioned.
Instead, the court limited the decision to the specific facts and circumstances of Quon's case. Kennedy wrote:
Prudence counsels caution before the facts in the instant case are used to establish far-reaching premises that define the existence, and extent, of privacy expectations enjoyed by employees when using employer-provided communication devices. Rapid changes in the dynamics of communication and information transmission are evident not just in the technology itself but in what society accepts as proper behavior.