Court Limits Bosses' Access to Staff Emails

Landmark ruling extends constitutional protections to electronic communication
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2008 2:10 AM CDT
A ruling by a US Court of Appeals will make it harder for employers to routinely read workers' e-mails and text messages.    (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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(Newser) – A federal court has ruled that emails and text messages on work accounts—routinely monitored by some employers—are protected by constitutional safeguards against unreasonable search and seizure. The ruling only applies to electronic communications supplied through outside servers, not internal systems. The ruling forbids service providers from handing over records to employers, and requires police to obtain search warrants to access messages, reports the Los Angeles Times.

It was the first federal appellate decision to provide 4th Amendment protection to electronic messages. A cyberspace civil liberties organization hailed the ruling as a "tremendous victory for online privacy" that affords many of the same protections to electronic communication that currently safeguard letters and packages.