Policy would allow MnSCU to scour employees' phones

- Employees at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are upset over a new cell phone policy enacted this month.

The policy would allow MnSCU to go through employees’ personal cell phones if the employee used the phone for work purposes.

“It would be very similar to the state asking us to come into our home, open all our filing cabinets, rummage through it, pull out all our credit card statements,” said Ricardo Muggli with Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.

Muggli is currently working with MnSCU representatives and leaders from several unions to revise the rule. He says they haven’t come to an agreement yet, but he’s hopeful they will find a resolution that ensures the protection of government data and privacy rights.

Attorney Marshall Tanick has litigated and written about privacy issues for years. He says while employer-issued cell phones are subject to search, there isn’t any legal precedent for personal cell phones.

“There are some laws that prevent surveillance, ease dropping, wire-tapping, but as to who owns the information, who has access to it, there are very few laws at federal, state or local levels,” said Tanick.”If the employee has his or her personal device, I think the law would support the employees in those situations. if the employer provides the device than the employer has unilateral access to it almost at all times."

Tanick also says employers should consider the consequences of allowing personal phone use for official business.

“The employers could be liable for what the employees put on the phone. Employers could be liable for an employee getting in an accident because they're using their phones while driving. There's all kinds of permutations that put an employer at risk."

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