Legal Dictionary

telephone tapping

Legal Definition of telephone tapping

Synonyms


Definition of telephone tapping

Further reading

Telephone tapping (also wire tapping or wiretapping in American English) is the monitoring of telephone and Internet conversations by a third party, often by covert means. The wire tap received its name because, historically, the monitoring connection was an actual electrical tap on the telephone line. Legal wiretapping by a government agency is also called lawful interception. Passive wiretapping monitors or records the traffic, while active wiretapping alters or otherwise affects it.

Telephone tapping is officially strictly controlled in many countries to safeguard privacy; this is the case in all developed democracies. In theory, telephone tapping often needs to be authorized by a court, and is, again in theory, normally only approved when evidence shows it is not possible to detect criminal or subversive activity in less intrusive ways; often the law and regulations require that the crime investigated must be at least of a certain severity. In many jurisdictions however, permission for telephone tapping is easily obtained on a routine basis without further investigation by the court or other entity granting such permission. Illegal or unauthorized telephone tapping is often a criminal offense. However, in certain jurisdictions such as Germany, courts will accept illegally recorded phone calls without the other party's consent as evidence, but the unauthorized telephone tapping will be avenged too.

In the United States, federal agencies may be authorized to engage in wiretaps by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a court with secret proceedings, in certain circumstances.

Under United States federal law and most state laws, there is nothing illegal about one of the parties to a telephone call recording the conversation, or giving permission for calls to be recorded or permitting their telephone line to be tapped. However the telephone recording laws in most U.S. states require only one party to be aware of the recording, while 12 states require both parties to be aware. It is considered better practice to announce at the beginning of a call that the conversation is being recorded.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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