Whose business is it, anyway?

It was just a few weeks ago that the New Jersey Supreme Court made me embarrassed to have lived many years of my life in the often-unfairly-maligned state. Now, the United States Supreme Court looks to be ready to fix the problem.

Let’s recap:

First, there is no constitutional right to privacy. We have many laws in the United States that establish privacy as something that may be reasonably expected under certain circumstances, but privacy isn’t a right.

Second: when you run a business, you can set rules for how those working for you behave so long as those rules don’t break any laws. Human Resources Departments keep up on these issues, and standards of behavior can be made preconditions of continued employment.

Third: if for no reason other than to protect a business’ own legal interests, it’s reasonable to impose these standards, and if I issue you a company-owned-and-paid-for cell phone (or computer, or pretty much anything) and explicitly define how you can and cannot use it, you need to follow those rules.

And finally: if I own the phone and have warned you that I reserve the right to look at its content and/or what is done with it, you have been explicitly advised of what level of privacy you can expect.

I ultimately don’t care what happens to the police officers who were using their phones for naughty purposes, but as a business person and advocate of controlled business change, I care very much that we’re about to have law passed down by the highest court in the land that states more or less clearly what rights are associated with using employer-owned assets.

And when planning your business change, you should care, too.

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