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he Supreme Court said Monday it will decide how much privacy workers have when they send text messages from company accounts.

The justices said they will review a federal appeals court ruling that sided with Ontario, Calif., police officers who complained that the department improperly snooped on their electronic exchanges. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco also faulted the text-messaging service for turning over transcripts of the messages without the officers' consent.

Users of text-messaging services "have a reasonable expectation of privacy" regarding messages stored on the service provider's network, 9th Circuit Judge Kim Wardlaw said. Both the city and USA Mobility Wireless, Inc., which bought the text-messaging service involved in the case, appealed the 9th Circuit ruling.

The justices turned down the company's appeal, but said they would hear arguments in the spring in the city's case.

The appeals court ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Ontario police Sgt. Jeff Quon and three others after Arch Wireless gave their department transcripts of Quon's text messages in 2002. Police officials read the messages to determine whether department-issued pagers were being used solely for work purposes.

The city said it discovered that Quon sent and received hundreds of personal messages, including many that were sexually explicit.

Quon and the others said the police force had an informal policy of not monitoring the usage as long as employees paid for messages in excess of monthly character limits.


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