Federal Wiretap Act
Communication recordings without one’s consent is a hot topic today. The leaking of banned NBA team owner Donald Sterling’s conversation has undoubtedly further ignited the debate, causing individuals to question the real law. What limitations or guidelines are set in place to protect individual’s privacy rights during phone call communications? Is it sufficient to have one party consent to the recording or are both parties required to consent? These are just a few of the questions being pondered. Let’s take a brief look.
First up is the Californa Invasion of Privacy Act or in short, CIPA. While not first in order of precedence, its overreaching applications have caused it to become first priority for businesses determining their communications recording procedures and protocols. CIPA was enacted in 1967 to protect Californian’s right of privacy. The California legislature declared that “the development of new devices and techniques for the purpose of eavesdropping upon private communicates … has created a serious threat to the free exercise of personal liberties.” Thus, section 632 of CIPA was enacted to require all-party consent for recording confidential communications. Later CIPA was amended to add section 632.7. This section specifically prohibits the recording of any telephone call in which at least one of the recipients is using a cordless or cellular telephone. Note, that section 632 is limited to confidential communications while 632.7 is not – we will come back to this!
Next, there is the Federal Wiretap Act, which governs call recording under federal law. The Act permits the recording of calls, so long as at least one party consents. Approximately 37 states follow this same concept, rendering the taping of calls by a business and its customers ok, since at least one party involved (the business) gives consent. In stark contrast, twelve states and the District of Columbia mandate that all participants in the call must provide consent before it can be recorded.