What to Know Before You Record
We regularly talk with CallTap users to learn how we might improve the app. People use CallTap for many reasons: designers and product people use it to record user interviews, journalists use it to record interviews, business and sales people use it to record negotiations, and some people use it to record calls with customer-service agents.
Users frequently ask us if it is legal to record phone calls. The short answer is yes, it’s legal to record phone calls if all involved parties consent to being recorded. In some cases, it might be legal to record a call without informing the other party. This is known as one-party consent. We recommend always informing the other party as a common courtesy.
Here’s how the laws break down by country:
Federal law allows for “one-party consent.” As long as you’re on the call and you’re OK with being recorded, it’s legal. According to the Digital Media Law Project, 38 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. adhere to the one-party consent rule.
The other 12 states have adopted “two-party consent” laws, which means everyone on the call must consent to being recorded. These two-party states are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. In some states consent just means going ahead with the call after being informed that it’s being recorded. Check Wikipedia for the laws in your state. If you’re calling someone in another state, check their laws, and play it safe by following whichever is more restrictive.
An individual can record a phone call without obtaining the consent of the other participant. (When speaking to a Canadian, just assume you’re being recorded, eh?) Businesses must inform individuals if a call is being recorded and offer alternatives.
Laws differ among states and territories, but the federal Telecommunications (Intercept and Access) Act of 1979 deemed it illegal to record people without their knowledge. Some territories allow for one-party consent recording by private individuals, while others require two-party consent. Check the laws of your state or territory before you record someone without their consent. For business-related calls, the other party must give consent or be transferred to another, non-recorded line, or be allowed to end the call.
One-party consent. (It’s like Australia’s Canada.)
The law allows you to record a phone call with someone without their knowledge, but you can’t broadcast that call without breaking privacy rules.
United Arab Emirates
UAE is strictly two-party consent. Recording people without their knowledge is considered a breach of privacy and could land you in jail or result in a hefty fine.
A few years ago, an Emirati woman faced jail for recording a phone call with a man who failed to fulfill a contract. The man confessed his failure over the phone, and the woman played the tape to the police. They charged the man with cheating and theft, but they also charged her for interfering with the man’s “privacy and sanctity.” No word on whether the woman was angry enough to still consider this a win.
We hope this gives you peace of mind when using CallTap to record phone calls, but this is not legal advice. If you think there’s a chance what you intend to do might be illegal, please get professional legal advice in advance.