State Supreme Court rules text messages ‘have a right to privacy’

Technology has made it easier for law enforcement to find information on suspects and victims, but is that an invasion of privacy?

Text messaging, for example, is one of the most common methods of communication these days. Because of its popularity, police officers have often resorted to searching users' Inbox to find information pertinent to their investigation. This instance happened to Washington resident Daniel Lee, who was arrested for heroin possession.

According to the Seattle Times, after his arrest, officers went through his phone and saw messages from alleged colleagues Jonathan Roden and Shawn Daniel Hinton, who were also arrested for allegedly selling drugs. This case was brought up to the Washington Supreme Court, who voted 5-4 that text messages are entitled to their own level of privacy.

"Text messages can encompass the same intimate subjects as phone calls, sealed letters and other traditional forms of communication that have historically been strongly protected under Washington law," Justice Steven Gonzalez wrote in Hinton's case.

Based on the fact that the Cowlitz County policemen intercepted "in-state private communications without a warrant or consent of all parties involved," cases on these heroin convictions were thrown out, according to reports from the Associated Press.

"People have a right to have those messages delivered without fear of government intrusion or interception, and if the government wants to intrude or intercept them, they have to get a warrant or a wiretap to do so," Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the cases, noted.

American businesses should not have to worry about the right to privacy. Many are looking north to Canadian based providers offering facilities-based SMS API services. Going with this approach demonstrates a reasonable measure of confidence and business integrity rather than moving off-shore as an alternative. Swift SMS Gateway is located just outside of Toronto and specializes in connecting applications, advertising and alerts to SMS.