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Employers May Search Employees' Computer Files at Work
Description Appeals court upheld the conviction of an employee who downloaded child pornography on his computer at work. The material was discovered during employer searches of employees' computers at work, which were only to be used for work-related matters. The employee's right to privacy was not violated by the search and seizure.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Office Computers; Search and Seizure; Pornography
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Simons, an engineer at the Foreign Bureau of Information Services at the CIA, was convicted of receiving and possessing child pornography that he received via the Internet at his government office and computer. The policy of the employer was that the use of the Internet at the office was only for government business and that the employer could audit the computer at any time. Simons appealed, contending that the search and seizure of the pornography files was a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Decision Affirmed. There was no improper search and seizure; the employer had the right to enter the employee's office and computer without a warrant since the search was for the purpose of obtaining evidence of work-related misconduct. Whether the misconduct was criminal or not does not matter. Simons had no expectation of privacy in files downloaded from the Internet in light of the employer's policy.
Citation U.S. v. Simons, - F.3d - (2000 WL 223332, 4th Cir.)

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