Supreme Court to Decide Limits on Police Cellphone Tracking

By Brian J. Lamoureux, & May 31, 2018Cyber Law

This term, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the police can track the real-time cellphone-based location and movements of a suspect using the suspect’s cellphone records. In Carpenter v. U.S., the police obtained Mr. Carpenter’s cellphone number from one of his alleged accomplices. Using this cellphone number, the police were able to obtain Mr. Carpenter’s “transactional records,” which permitted the police to piece together 12,898 pieces of data from the cell towers that allegedly showed Mr. Carpenter’s movements over a period of four months.

The Supreme Court’s decision in this case could have far-reaching consequences, especially as more and more automobiles contain real-time GPS location data and self-driving cars come onto our roadways. This case poses serious questions that courts must struggle with: do drivers or cellphone users have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their movements, or is this data fair game for police or other government entities? Are consumers even aware of or know about the vast amounts of data being gathered about them in the background of their apps, devices, and cars? Would consumers behave differently – or make different product choices – if they knew that someday the police could retrace their movements simply based upon the data stored on their phone or in their cars?

These are real and complex questions posed by this case, and it will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court decides the issue. If the Court decides in favor of the government, it could reinvigorate the privacy debate we recently saw with Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony. But, for now, it seems that the tension between technology and privacy is as stark as ever. Only time will tell how and whether courts will strike a balance between legitimate police interests and the privacy rights of those of us who don’t pay much attention to the staggering amounts of digital bread crumbs we leave behind.


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Brian J. Lamoureux is a Partner with Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O'Gara LLC and a member of the Employment Law, Cyber Law, Litigation and Corporate & Business Teams. He is also Practitioner Faculty in Management (Business Law) at Providence College, his alma mater.

His extensive practice areas include complex commercial litigation, employment law, construction law, social media law, and creditors' rights. In addition to being an accomplished business litigator, he has developed into a nationally-recognized voice on cutting-edge legal issues relating to social media. He is a frequent presenter, published author, and broadcast commentator on the topic and regularly appears on WPRI-TV, NBC10 and NECN-TV, the nation's largest 24-hour regional news network. His recent newspaper columns and articles include Social Media Privacy Law Impacts EmployersShould Employees Use Facebook at Work?Privacy Rights Being Tested in the Digital AgeDigital Age Hiring Process Filled With DangerTexting in the Workplace? Dangers Abound, Email Privacy Not a Guarantee in Workplace, and Worry About Workplace Prejudice? Clean Up. Mr. Lamoureux's work has also been published in the Providence Business News and Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly.

He successfully briefed and argued before the First Circuit Court of Appeals in a case confirming surety's rights to indemnification. He was lead counsel in a successfully resolved certified class action regarding the demutualization of an insurance company before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Rhode Island, and served as trial co-counsel in one of the largest defense jury verdicts in the Federal District Court in Massachusetts.

Mr. Lamoureux has been honored for his achievements by the Providence Business News and was selected as a member of its 2011 Class of "40 Under Forty."

He earned his J.D., magna cum laude, from the Syracuse University College of Law, where he was a member of the Syracuse Law Review and Moot Court Honor Society. At the same time, he received a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He also holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Rhode Island, where he was a teaching assistant in American Government and International Relations, and a B.A. in Political Science, cum laude, from Providence College.

Prior to joining PLDO, Mr. Lamoureux was a litigation partner in a large international AMLaw 200 firm. He is admitted to practice in state and federal courts in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and is qualified to serve as a receiver in Rhode Island Superior Court. Mr. Lamoureux is also admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. To reach Attorney Lamoureux, please call 401-824-5100 or email

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