June 18, 2008 | By Kurt Opsahl

Ninth Circuit Upholds Privacy of Text Messages

Today the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion in Quon v. Arch Wireless, holding that "users of text messaging services such as those provided by Arch Wireless have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their text messages." The Court concluded:

The search of Appellants’ text messages violated their Fourth Amendment and California constitutional privacy rights because they had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the content of the text messages, and the search was unreasonable in scope.

In a landmark ruling last year, the Sixth Circuit held that the Fourth Amendment protects email stored with a third party. Today's ruling applies the Fourth Amendment to text messaging.

The Ninth Circuit also held that defendant Arch Wireless provided an “electronic communication service” to the City, and therefore violated the Stored Communications Act by "knowingly turn[ing] over the text-messaging transcripts to the City" without the consent of the addressee or intended recipient.

This ruling is a tremendous victory for your online privacy, helping ensure that the Fourth Amendment applies to your communications online just as strongly as it does to your letters and packages.


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