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The Supreme Court appears likely to rule against public employees who claimed a local government violated their privacy by reading racy text messages they sent on their employers' account.

Several justices said Monday that the employer, the Ontario, Calif., police department, acted reasonably in monitoring the text messages in view of its written policy warning employees they have no guarantee of privacy in the use of office computer and electronics equipment.

Justice Stephen Breyer said he didn't see "anything, quite honestly, unreasonable about that."

While the case involves government workers, the decision could have broader privacy implications as courts continue to sort out privacy issues in the digital age. Many employers, including Ontario, tell workers there is no guarantee of privacy in anything sent over their company- or government-provided computers, cell phones or pagers.

The case arose when the Ontario department decided to audit text message usage to see whether its SWAT team officers were using them too often for personal reasons. Three police officers and another employee complained that the department improperly snooped on their electronic exchanges, including many that were said to be sexually explicit.


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