Court Protects Personal E-mail Sent Over Company Network

Online Exclusive: Supreme Court Takes On Electronic Privacy Case

Richard Convertino served as lead prosecutor against Karim Koubriti, a high-profile suspected terrorist in Detroit. In 2003, following Koubriti's acquittal, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) began investigating allegations of prosecutorial misconduct by Convertino, who was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

In most companies, it would be unreasonable for an employee to assume his or her employer would not have access to any e-mail sent at work, but the DOJ operated under the unusual policy of explicitly allowing employees to use work e-mail addresses for personal use.

"The DOJ hadn't informed employees that e-mail communications would be retained and possibly reviewed," says Anthony Diana, a partner at Mayer Brown. "Most of the case law out there has emphasized the fact that an employee doesn't have an expectation of privacy. Data that resides on employer systems and servers is property of the employer."

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Christopher Danzig

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