Federal courts held Fourth Amendment applies to electronic communications

On June 18, 2007, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in Warshak v. US that the warrantless search of emails stored on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) violated the Fourth Amendment. The court found that email users correctly maintain a reasonable expectation of privacy and rejecting the government's contention that an ISP's right to screen e-mails for spam and inappropriate content diminished that expectation. One year later, on June 18, 2008, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages sent on work cell phones under the Fourth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit's ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court, which held in City of Ontario v. Quon that an employer's search of private text messages on a work-issued device does not violate the Fourth Amendment if the search is motivated by a legitimate work-related purpose and is not excessive in scope.

Learn more about the Fourth Amendment and laws regulating communications from the JURIST news archive.


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