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Old 04-19-2010, 01:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Using company property to send private messages

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Question:

Even if the company you work for has a "we reserve the right..." disclaimer, does a reasonable expectation of privacy exist if you're using company equipment to send private messages?

The US Supreme Court is looking at this issue today, which has all sorts of potential ramifications.

More: Supreme Court to hear texting privacy case - CNN.com
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Old 04-19-2010, 02:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Good one Kathrynhr,

This will be an interesting case, especially insofar as they had an informal policy that allowed some light personal use and that they had a procedure in place to handle $$$ charges associated with the use.

I wonder if it would have been a different result if he had been fired for not paying attention to his work?
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Old 04-19-2010, 03:02 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I don't know. The article doesn't say what the result of the internal investigation was, but I presume he was not fired since it didn't explicitly say so.

Aside: this man clearly won't win any common sense awards, since it says he sent "often-racy messages to his wife, his girlfriend and a fellow officer."

I'm on the fence about this issue myself. If from my home computer I send an email from my work account, even to my husband, I view that email as company property that they can look at on demand. If from my work computer, I log in to Gmail and send an email, I view that as my property and none of their business, and would be offended if it were monitored.
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Old 04-19-2010, 03:24 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Assuming that the message is legitimate then a person should be able to use company equipment to communicate once in a while. But I am speaking as a exempt employee who might work 40 hours one week and 60 or more the next. Normally I use my personal blackberry for personnel verbal, text and emails.
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Old 04-19-2010, 05:30 PM   #5 (permalink)
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It is inaccurate for the reporter to say, "At issue is how far a government employer may go to monitor the private communications of its workers."

This was not the guy's personal cell phone or pager. If he had been at an office with his personal cell phone on a break and the department taped his conversations, then you have something. Or if the employer were monitoring a private internet email account that he was accessing from work computers, then there's something to discuss. Another tricky one would be monitoring instant messages on a private yahoo or hotmail account.

But this is not "private communications" at issue here. It is personal communication on government owned equipment using a government paid service. By his own acknowledgement it was not private communications. I think it is odd that the appeals court mentioned the department reviewed the content of both work-related and personal messages. How would they know? Who makes the call that those messages to a co-worker are personal or work-related?

If he were stalking someone and sending harassing messages from the pager and paying the overage charges would the court rule those were private messages and the department had no liability or right to review them? I don't think paying the overage charges buys privacy. It rather lets him off the hook for disciplinary action for excessive personal use.
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Old 04-19-2010, 07:22 PM   #6 (permalink)
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can a company listen in to your private phone calls while you use the company phone system?

just wondering i never bothered with looking into it, but if that holds true i dont see why digital media would be different.
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Old 04-19-2010, 07:55 PM   #7 (permalink)
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We had many an officer fired / disciplined for computer and or email use... Will be interesting as I don't really think anyone has a right to privacy since you are on their dime and using their equipment ect.....
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Old 04-19-2010, 08:21 PM   #8 (permalink)
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IMHO, if the company pays for the device and pays for the service, they can do just about what they darn well please.

If you need your personal email and SMS and phone calls, get your own device.
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Old 04-19-2010, 10:10 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I agree fully with Dub. My corporate email is only for work use, I never send anything unprofessional or not work appropriate. I often see others sending emails to each other complaining about managers and I wouldn't chance that. In our Business Code of Conduct refresher that we do every few months it even states that they have the right to monitor everything.

Using a work device for anything other than work you are subject to their rules and the consequences.
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Old 04-21-2010, 12:04 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I think this says it all:

Quote:
Quon signed a statement acknowledging that "use of these tools for personal benefit is a significant violation of City of Ontario Policy" and that "users should have no expectation of privacy or confidentiality when using these resources."
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Old 04-21-2010, 07:22 AM   #11 (permalink)
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That's exactly what we have with our work, with our personal emails.

I don't get how he can expect to win this case, but stranger things have happened.
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Old 04-21-2010, 10:38 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodle22 View Post
That's exactly what we have with our work, with our personal emails.

I don't get how he can expect to win this case, but stranger things have happened.
But note that he won the case at the lower level.
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Old 04-22-2010, 06:13 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Wirelessly posted (well lookie here!)

I say you have no expectation of an privacy if you are using company equipment. Even if you log onto a personal gmail acct. You are still using their equipment and internet service
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Old 04-24-2010, 09:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I hate to comment on the expectation of privacy, however since I work for a Govt/County agency and anything logged on any server is public record and can be requested I made a very broad line between my personal and professional life.. This is definitely something that I will apply to any further experience I have in the future.. I would never use a client's PC for my personal while I am suppose to be working on it.
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Old 05-02-2010, 03:09 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Wirelessly posted

Quote:
Originally Posted by djm2
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodle22 View Post
That's exactly what we have with our work, with our personal emails.

I don't get how he can expect to win this case, but stranger things have happened.
But note that he won the case at the lower level.
Cali laws on this and federal do not match. Cali says employer has to show notification permission or some way of you knowing. Federal level employer does not have to anything.
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