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Search & Seizure Commentary
By Caitlin E. Parry
City’s Viewing of Employee’s Text Messages Did Not Run Afoul of Fourth Amendment
Even if the employee in City of Ontario, California v. Quon1 had a
reasonable expectation of privacy in the text messages on his
city-issued pager, the city did not violate the Fourth Amendment by
obtaining and viewing transcripts of those messages. The U.S. Supreme
Court decision, handed down on June 17, 2010, was a narrow one, with the
court stating, “Prudence counsels caution before the facts in the
instant case are used to establish far-reaching premises that define the
existence, and extent, of privacy expectations enjoyed by employees
when using employer-provided communication devices.”2
Audit of Text Messages
The City of Ontario obtained alphanumeric pagers capable of sending and
receiving text messages for use by SWAT Team members to help with
mobilization and response to emergency situations. Prior to issuing the
pagers, the city gave its employees a Computer Policy explaining
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