Saturday, June 11, 2005

FAQ 5a. Isn't it against the law to surreptiously tape conversations?

One of the most common questions that was asked when the news first broke that Grewal had secretly taped his conversations with Kalia, Dosanjh, and Murphy was whether this wasn't against the law. Indeed, it was one of the first questions Grewal himself was asked in one of the first interview he gave (see here) the day after the story broke.

The answer (as many now know) is, no, it's not illegal for someone to tape conversations in which they themselves are participating.

The underlying rules can best be illustrated by the legal situation in the USA. Most states allow someone to record a conversation to which they are a party without anyone else's permission. These laws are referred to as “one-party consent” statutes, and as long as you are a party to the conversation, it is legal for you to record it.

There are twelve states where all parties to a conversation must give consent for such a recording: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Canada is a "one-party consent" jurisdiction. It is legal for anyone to record their own conversations, even if their interlocutors do not know they are being recorded.

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