Recording Phone Conversations

A lot of our clients come to VALKYRIE (GB) LIMITED with very complex issues. Recently one of our clients had several questions about the legality of phone recording. Here are some of questions clients have asked us and our take on them. As always, depending on jurisdictions, we always advice on getting legal advice alongside any technical advice needed from us.

Is it illegal to record a conversation with someone in the UK without their permission: If you’re on the phone, the person you’re talking to can record the conversation without committing a criminal offence in most cases. But there are rules on what happens to those recordings

Is it illegal to record a conversation in the UK: The rules vary between businesses and individuals. However, generally speaking, it’s not a crime to record a conversation without telling someone. And although it could potentially be considered a breach of their privacy, it’s not a criminal offence to covertly record calls for your own use. It’s more of a possible civil wrong, which can be redressed with a claim for damages. The legal aspect comes in to the equation if someone shares the recording without the consent of the people in the call. If you sell a recording to a 3rd party or release it to the public without consent from the other person, this enters murky legal waters and could be a criminal offence. However, journalists can publish secret recordings without a legal backlash, provided they can prove the released recording is in the public interest

What can you do if someone records your conversation without consent: If another person has recorded your conversation without your consent, there isn’t much you can do, legally speaking. The closest you’d get to legal action would be a civil claim, where you could potentially win a damages pay out if you can prove your privacy was breached. However, it’s a far more serious breach of the law if a business has recorded a call without one of the legal justifications. Secret government phone recording also goes on for security reasons, but this only takes place when the organisations involved are given a legal warrant to do so under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), 2000. So the state shouldn’t be listening in on your calls unless they have a reason to suspect you’re up to something illegal.

Is it legal for businesses to record phone calls without telling you: While conversations between individuals aren’t really regulated, there are laws in place to stop businesses recording conversations. Before May 25 2018, when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was introduced, if a business was recording telephone conversations, it simply needed to be mentioned at the beginning of a call with an explanation of why this was happening (e.g. ‘training purposes’). The onus was then on the recipient to carry on with the conversation or hang up if they weren’t happy to continue. Under GDPR, consent to call recording must actively be sought, following a clear explanation of why the call is being recorded. Now the UK has left the EU, not much has changed the regulation still apply. The Information Commissioner’s Office demands that notifiable breaches are reported to individuals concerned. Companies can also be fined if they use other parties’ personal data for anything other than personal purposes.

In summary in most everyday circumstance it’s difficult to know whether a person you are talking to on the phone is covertly recording your conversation. It’s equally difficult to know if someone is recording your conversation during a face-to-face meeting. Ultimately, if you are having calls or meetings that you assess might be recorded (for what ever reason) keep your wits about you and stay situationally aware. Some indicators that someone may be recording your conversation are, they ask questions and try to force particular answers, they ask the same question but in a different way, they won’t say too much during the conversation and what they do is direct, if face to face they may position there phone on the table face down. Ultimately if your suspicious end the call or meeting immediately.

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