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The Champion

July 2010 , Page 54 

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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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