Permissive workplace policies are an important way to attract and retrain the best workers. They are also one side of a quid pro quo: the same employee who spends an afternoon ordering Christmas presents on Amazon.com may be expected to take time away from his family to deal with a weekend emergency at work.
As the line between company and personal communications blurs, employees are understandably worried about their privacy. But trying to regulate employer policies on the use of company‐owned equipment is the wrong approach.
As we see in the City of Ontario v. Quon [pdf] case, there’s a real danger of the courts getting bogged down in arguments about the minutia of internal corporate policies — both official and tacit. The courts have more important things to do than parse the fine print of employee handbooks.