Occasionally, people are faced with a situation where they wished they had recorded something someone had said over the phone, or in a Skype call or something. Acquiring the tools and applications necessary for this used to be difficult, but in our modern age, call-recording tools are more plentiful than ever.
Also see our article 6 Free Screen Recorders for Mac OSX
So let’s get to the big question. Is it legal to record phone calls on your Android or iOS device?
Sort of. That question requires a pretty big answer, since it depends on a lot of factors.
Is is legal for U.S. residents?
This is an interesting question, because this actually depends on how state and federal law intersect. Federal law- that is, law that applies to all states and territories unless state law overrides it- dictates that calls can be recorded as long as at least one party consents to it. This means it’s fine for you to record your own phone calls and other conversations, but you can’t record anyone else’s without at least one person’s permission.
38 states (39, counting Washington D.C.) share this one-party consent law. The remaining eleven states, however, typically require all parties to consent. These states are:
- New Hampshire
Note that this comes with some complications. Take a look at this page if you want to be sure.
When is it illegal?
Recording calls are illegal in any circumstance where you don’t have the consent of the parties, or you’re using illegally-placed bugs and recording devices. This applies even to states with the one-party consent law.
Pretty much, you aren’t allowed to record other people’s conversations unless you’re the NSA or another government agency. That may seem like a hotly political statement, but it’s the unfortunate truth for American citizens: surveillance has been permitted and normalized, and while there are fights in the courts over this, meaningful change is still a ways off.
What about other countries?
Varies greatly depending on your country- you’ll want to look this one up on your own. Some countries, like Australia, outright ban call recordings, while Canada permits them if the other party is informed they’re being reported. This article isn’t big enough to cover all of these situations, unfortunately- just search for your local state/country law on this topic if you’d like to be safe.