Police Can’t but Boss Can Invade Your Privacy

Welcome to you oligarchy!This last week was pretty good regarding the Supreme Court. As I reported on Wednesday, the Court found that the police could not just search the phones of people they arrest. They have to have a search warrant. But the same day, Corey Robin noted that, Supreme Court rules: the Government Can’t Search Your Cellphone Without a Warrant; the Boss Can. That’s right. Four years ago, the Supreme Court unanimously found that an employer could search your cell phone.

Now the case at hand is not all that clear. It involved a police officer who was using an employer provided phone. But as Robin noted, that really wasn’t part of the decision. If it had been a personal phone, the reasoning would have been the same. The Court didn’t say, “Because the phone belonged to the force…” What’s more, the case itself stinks. The officer was given some device that I’ll call a phone that was able to send text messages. He and all the other officers were told that they shouldn’t expect their messages to be private, but that it was okay to use them for personal matters. What’s more, if they went over the allowed number of texts, they had to pay for them.

Well, this officer went over them month after month and his supervisor got tired of collecting the money. So he got all the records, saw that the vast majority of them were personal and disciplined the officer. The real problem I see here is that all the power is given to the employer. The employer never set a level of “personal use” that was unacceptable. The one thing that was required (paying for the overages), the officer did. The Supreme Court said that it was fine to do this if it was for a “legitimate work-related purpose.” I just don’t see this as legitimate.

The supervisor could have changed the rules. He could have said that anyone who went over their allotted number of texts would have them checked to see what they were. That would have given the officer time to change his behavior. But instead, the supervisor was simply annoyed and so pried into the personal matters of the officer. A supervisor being annoyed at a subordinate does not sound like a “legitimate work-related purpose” to me. But to the power elites at the Supreme Court, I guess it does.

The wider point of all this is that oppression by the government is not the only kind of oppression there is. When the United States was formed, that was much more true. If you didn’t like your work options, you could, “Go west, young man!” But now workers don’t really have choices. Pretty much any reasonably sized company infringes on employees in much the same way. Now it happens before you even get hired. Companies want to do background checks, credit checks, Twitter and Facebook checks! That is almost all ridiculous and of little value to the employer.

Yet it seems that the Supreme Court really is stuck in the past. It’s nice that this week they updated the idea of your home to include your cell phone when it comes to government intervention. But more and more it is your employer and not the government that is the greatest threat to your liberty and privacy.

This entry was posted in Politics by Frank Moraes. Bookmark the permalink.

About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Police Can’t but Boss Can Invade Your Privacy

  1. I am about 20 years younger than you so my US History education was better than yours but it still had many crucial gaps. I was taught US History and a basic survey of the Constitution in the late 1990’s and thanks to Political Correctness (so despised by conservatives) in the 1980’s, my Middle School Class did not make Slavery or the wealth of the Founders a secret. What was left out, however, was the relationship between free but poor people in the new United States.

    The Founders are always called brilliant and some of them were indeed. However, they used all of their intelligence to craft a Constitution that served their needs and their needs only. They wanted a strong central government that would be able to deal with Indians, slave revolts, domestic insurrection done by poor whites and they sought mutual defense against foreign powers. Once those threats to their property were addressed, they made sure to erect safe guards against the Federal Government (which is to say, their peers conspiring against them) and populist domestic policies.

    The Constitution was written by our Country’s peerage to address their concerns and so it is no surprised that men who controlled state and local politics and who owned vast amounts of property would neglect to erect safe guards against abuses done by state, local and private power.

    I do remain cautiously optimistic because through Constitutional Amendments and Liberal Judicial Activism (another slur among conservatives) during the Middle of the 20th Century, certain legal safe guards were applied more widely and local courts and Law Enforcement had to abide by some of the legal protections in the Bill of Rights. Perhaps a generation of Liberal political victories could one day see the scope of the Constitutions protects applied to workers in the face of private sector abuses.

  2. @Colin Keesee – If you were in middle school in the 1980s, you are probably more like 10 years younger, but I do look and sound older than I am!

    The only founding father I have a great deal of respect for is Thomas Paine, and he wasn’t even an American and had nothing to do with the Constitution. I am tired at how these people have been turned into demigods. But given who they were and when they were, I think they did a reasonable job of getting the country going.

    They didn’t have any idea of the society being as unequal as it was to become. But you are right to be optimistic. The US was the first country that I know of to enact a progressive income tax. (BTW: that’s why conservatives hate the federal income tax so much: because it is pretty much the only tax we have that [i]is[/i] progressive.) And there was serious talk during the Great Depression of a full employment amendment.

    Although I fall into it from time to time, cynicism is the ultimate tool of conservatives. Remember the slogan, "Be realistic: demand the impossible!" Almost every argument I have with a conservative ends with some variation on, "Both parties are terrible!" Well, yes; but that’s just a way of doing nothing which allows the plutocrats to continue to win. Optimism is an important tool for reform.

  3. I was in Middle School in the late 1990’s. My mention of the 1980’s was that Political Correctness gained strength in the 1980’s and by the end of the 1990’s, it drove K-12 History classes to be a little less bad. They now had to acknowledge that blacks and women and Indians existed and that the Founders were not all self made men. The teaching of US History in the late 1990’s and today still leaves much to be desired but if Conservatives had their way in Academia, we would still be taught that Abe Lincoln was born in a Log Cabin built with his own two hands and that slaves were always happy.

    Another thing wrong with US History instruction in K-12 is that it infantalizes the teacher and the student. I was pretty privileged and went to a very good school, with good teachers and plenty of resources. In 7th grade, we had a fantastic course on Medieval History. We were treated like adults, told the truth and dealt with history critically. The next year, we take US History and we are treated like kids, who cannot handle the truth that the US was founded as slave holders’ Republic.

    In College, I studied History and I had to unlearn a lot of material from US History and when I studied the Middle Ages further, I did not have to unlearn anything, I just added to what I had been taught in k-12.

    The fact that we are completely capable of seeing evil when it involves other societies but that we work to maintain the lie of American exceptional, is a big reason why we have so many problems. We can see how contemporary Italy, France, England, Scotland and Wales are shaped by greedy, sinister, egomaniacs from centuries past and yet we cannot see it in Florida, Pennsylvania or California. As a result, we will have a country that thinks that a deeply imperfect Constitution is perfect and its inability to protect ordinary people is to be ignored or justified.

  4. @Colin Keesee – That’s an excellent point. But even when I was going to school, we at least had to deal with slavery. And there was an explicit acknowledgement that only property owning white men could vote at first. Given the way that was taught, I think our class was on the leading edge of this. What doesn’t tend to be taught is the genocide that was committed against the native peoples. Nor is our unnecessary atomic attack on Japan acknowledged, as I discussed in, [url=http://franklycurious.com/index.php?itemid=6021]Stalin, Not the Bomb, Defeated Japan[/url].

    I’m not sure a country can reasonably tell its own history. But the US seems to have a harder time than other countries. Your point is good about the "perfect" Constitution. I liked it when in 2011, I heard a lot of conservatives claim the perfection of the original Constitution. All I could think was that they had never read the Constitution. But as I [url=https://twitter.com/CuriousFrankly/status/481937645237313537]recently tweeted[/url], "Conservatives love the Constitution the way Christians love the Bible: selectively." The way I see it is that you can’t love the country if you don’t really see it. But the whole "American exceptionalism" thing is more like a religion than anything. They have faith that America is great so they don’t have to think about it. Of course, this is why great empires die: their people can’t see the truth and so are unable to adapt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.