5.1 Discussion

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5.1 Discussion

In the case of Ontario v. Quon, 560 U.S. 746 (2010), a city police department read personal text messages sent and received on a pager that the employer owned and issued to an employee, a police officer. Some of the text messages were to the employee’s wife and some were to a fellow officer with whom he was having an affair. The employee challenged disciplinary actions taken against him, arguing that the privacy of his messages was protected by the ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures” found in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Based on this description and the information about the case provided in the module Resources area:

  • Should employees who utilize their work computers to store or send personal information, or to surf the internet, have an expectation of privacy for personal information, data, and emails generated, accessed, or stored on their work computers? Explain your perspective.

Responded to the 2 post below, offer your own perspectives and experience

When it comes to privacy when using work technology, I believe that you should not have an expectation of privacy. If you consider the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) of 1986, it states that employers are not allowed to listen to or disclose information garnered from private conversations (Kubasek, 2020). Focus on the part about “private” conversations. When I started at my current job, and just about any job I have ever had, I had to sign a waiver stating that I understood that any work phone, email, pager, or other electronic device was not considered private, nor the conversations, as they are company property as well as the information you have transmitted with them. Many states require employers to notify their employees of monitoring internet usage and personnel emails.

As we learned in our reading this week, an employer’s right to fire is more substantial when backed by information gathered by monitoring any employee’s wrongdoings (Kubasek, 2020). As an employee, you agree to the terms of employment set forth by your employer, and part of those terms is properly using company equipment. This applies to the privacy of emails, texts, and phone calls, as monitoring is the only way to make sure the equipment is being used appropriately.

When you are hired, you are given a company handbook to review. Within that handbook, there is usually a written notice of what exactly your work will monitor (websites visited, company email accounts, texts via company cellphones). Ontario V. Quon, 560 U.S. 746 (2010) is a perfect example, the officer was using company equipment to send personnel texts. Quon and others were aware that their messages could be audited at any time, meaning they had no expectation of privacy for what they were sending. They gave that right away when they agreed to use the pagers, under the condition that an audit could be made to review the messages (Justia, Ontario v. Quon, 560 U.S. 746, 2010).


Kubasek, N.K., Browne, M.N., Dhooge, L.J., Herron, D.J., Barkacs, L.L. (2020).

Dynamic Business Law (5th ED.) McGraw-Hill Education.




Workplace Privacy

Privacy is a privilege best earned. When you are hired at any job, there are confidentiality contracts, rules and regulations from the employer that need to be adhered to, and just plain common sense that these devices, whether its computers, phones, pagers, or any other device, are not yours. If you want privacy about your “private” things, don’t share them on monitored platforms. Employees who are surfing the internet or flirting with the co-worker through company email systems should not have any expectation of anything they are saying or looking for held to any standard of privacy. It is a breach of the policies that have been put forth that you have signed and acknowledged. Now you have the responsibility of acting humane at the workplace. Office Quon signed a statement saying that he understood the Computer Policy rules, even though they got revised later on after overages kept occurring on multiple devices. The officers were given the right to pay for the overages with no insight to having their messages audited. Over a period of time of colleting payments from officers going over their text messaging, the city had the right to investigate if these pagers were being used properly, since they were provided to the SWAT team to make their jobs easier. I don’t believe the OPD did anything wrong in acquiring these messages and determining that Quon had violated policies put forth.

The Fourth Amendment protects against illegal search and seizure. When probable cause, warrants, and consent are in check, then it is legal for them to move forward with collecting the evidence. A valid search warrant needs to be filed by a law enforcement officer in good faith, with reliable information that supports probable cause, and signed by a Judge. The most important thing to remember when looking at a search warrant is to make sure the place they want to search is listed on said warrant. In this particular case the OPD did the correct thing by determining if the overages were work or personal related. They redacted messages to make it less intrusive, and had legitimate interest in knowing if the employee was being forced to pay out of pocket for work-related expenses. On the other hand, the city should not be paying for the employees personal communications either.







5.1 Discussion

 In 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling in the case of Ontario v. Quon, 560 U.S. 746 (2010), which addressed whether or not a government employer could read employee text messages sent on government-owned devices without violating the employees’ Fourth Amendment rights to privacy. The court ruled that while government employers could read employee text messages sent on government-owned devices, they could only do so if they had a legitimate reason to believe that such messages were relevant to an authorized investigation or inquiry (Robertson, 2017). The court also ruled that employees had a reasonable expectation of privacy in their text messages, and that employers could not simply conduct random searches of employee communications without justification. From the cases study given, one can determine why employees who utilize their work computers to store or send personal information, or to surf the internet, have no expectation of privacy for personal information, data, and emails generated, accessed, or stored on their work computers.

Employers also have the right to track and monitor employee’s use of company equipment.  The computer equipment and email system, like the workspace, belongs to the employer (Brassart, 2020).   Employers are permitted to block employees’ internet access and limit the sites an employee can visit to those related to work. Employers also are permitted to access employee’s emails, even personal ones that went through the employers’ computer system, although they might be required to have a valid business reason to do so.  Employers may also be permitted to track employees’ text messages on a company-owned phone. Employees should not have any expectation of privacy when they use company equipment to access the internet, social media or personal emails. Employers should be aware that some states require employers to notify employees that they are tracking and monitoring employees’ internet use and emails.  And, there may be a need to get written consent.


Brassart Olsen, C. (2020). To track or not to track? Employees’ data privacy in the age of corporate wellness, mobile health, and GDPR. International Data Privacy Law. https://doi.org/10.1093/idpl/ipaa004

Robertson, M. B. (2017). Do not Press Send: Commonwealth v. Diego Takes Reasonable Expectation of Privacy away from Texters. Vill. L. Rev. Online61, 11. https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/vlrtoleg61&div=3&id=&page=