Pocket Dialers Beware

A cellphone user who unknowingly places a call doesn't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in conversations exposed to the person on the other end of the line, a federal appeals court said on Tuesday. In this case, a senior executive of a business inadvertently pocket dialed his administrative assistant who then over him speaking with a co-worker and his wife about personnel matters. The administrative assistant wrote down some of the conversation and prepares a typewritten summary of the call and have it, along with a recording of some of the call, to other senior executives. The cellphone user then sued under a federal law that bars the interception of communications and appealed a lower court decision tossing the suit. The appeals court affirmed the lower court, reasoning that a person who operates a device capable of exposing conversations to third parties has no reasonable expectation of privacy when he or she fails to take precautions that would prevent such exposure. Pocket dials can be prevented by locking the phone, setting up a passcode, or using an app that prevents pocket dials. According to the court, the cell phone user was "no different from the person who exposes in-home activities by leaving drapes open or a webcam on and therefore has not exhibited an expectation of privacy.” (BERTHA MAE HUFF; JAMES HAROLD HUFF, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CAROL SPAW).