Audio Surveillance and The Law

Prospective clients often ask about the legality of recording someone’s cell phone conversations, telephone conversations or bugging a room to hear what others say. This type of activity is almost always illegal and our agency does not conduct any type of audio surveillance. For those who would like to see the law, read below:Audio Surveillance - audio recording equipment

United States Codes, Title 18, Section 2510 (2) states:

“Oral communication means any ‘oral communication’ uttered by a person exhibiting an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such expectation”.

By definition of this code section, a person does not have an expectation of privacy, nor can he or she expect that communication will not be intercepted or recorded, if there are public signs posted which state that the communication will be intercepted or monitored. So, if you want a room bugged, you must put up a large public sign that says that’s what you are doing! Not likely to work as well as you had hoped, but have at it. This holds true for public places like stores and government buildings as well as private homes and property. The First Amendment of the Constitution provides that any conversation between individuals is private, unless otherwise notified.

Audio Surveillance - audio recording equipment In more basic terms, this means that any overhearing or recording of a conversation is illegal…unless both parties are aware that it is being done. (i.e. you overhear the person seated next to you at a restaurant as they are speaking and they can plainly see that you are present and within earshot.)

For businesses, in order to comply with the law, many companies notify all customers that a disclaimer stating, “AUDIO MONITORING ON THESE PREMISES.” Such a disclaimer must be affixed, in plain view, to all areas where microphones are installed. This includes a private home or other non-public location where an unknowing third party may be.

Some state laws may vary for the federal statute and it is further suggested that you consult with your local attorney, and become fully aware of the local laws in this regard. Nonetheless, the Federal law still applies.

Note: the above information is based on the opinions and interpretation of the author and is for general informational purposes. This is NOT legal advice. Do not rely on any of this information without verifying same with your attorney.