Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is employer control over use of its own computer resources absolute?

The Supreme Court will hear a case about the “limits” of control employers have over communications using their equipment and services. The cause is City of Ontario CA v. Quon, in which the police department audited an employee after excessive use and fired the employee. The employee claims that a charge for going over implied some expectation of privacy. The Ninth Circuit has ruled that the police department had violated a 4th Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. There is also a technicality over whether the equipment really belonged to the vendor and not the employer, but the “usage rights” obviously belonged to the employer.

A link is in Tech News World, here, story by Erika Morphy, title “SC's Hearing of Texting Case Could Shake Up Workplace Privacy”.

Jeffrey Toobin on CNN pointed out that employers nearly always have the right to monitor their own systems, but they can't tap your personal phone (for government to do it is controversial enough). But more iffy is monitoring what employees do on their own time on social networking sites and blogs.

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