Is it illegal to record a phone conversation?
‘Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), it is not illegal for individuals to record conversations provided the recording is for their own use.
Recording or monitoring is only prohibited where some of the contents of the communication are made available to a third party. If a person intends to make the conversation available, they must get the consent of the person being recorded’
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 in general prohibits interception of communications by a third party, with exceptions related to government agencies. A recording made by one party to a phone call or e-mail without notifying the other is not prohibited provided that the recording is for their own use; recording without notification is prohibited where some of the contents of the communication—a phone conversation or an e-mail—are made available to a third party. Businesses may record with the knowledge of their employees, but without notifying the other party, to
- provide evidence of a business transaction,
- ensure that a business complies with regulatory procedures,
- see that quality standards or targets are being met,
- protect national security,
- prevent or detect crime,
- investigate the unauthorised use of a telecommunications system, or
- secure the effective operation of the telecommunications system.
They may monitor without recording phone calls or e-mails that have been received to see whether they are relevant to the business (e.g., to check for business communications addressed to an employee who is away); but such monitoring must be proportional and in accordance with data protection laws and codes of practice.
This summary does not necessarily cover all possible cases. The main legislation which must be complied with is:
- Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 ("RIPA")
- Telecommunications (Lawful Business Practice)(Interception of Communications) Regulations 2000 ("LBP Regulations")
- Data Protection Act 1998
- Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1999
- Human Rights Act 1998
Under RIPA unlawful recording or monitoring of communications is a tort, allowing civil action in the courts. There is a summary of applicable rules on the Ofcom website
Recording is sometimes advised, as in recording business transactions carried out by telephone to provide a record. It is sometimes mandatory; from March 2009 Financial Services Authority rules required firms to record all telephone conversations and electronic communications relating to client orders and the conclusion of transactions in the equity, bond, and derivatives markets. In November 2011 this was extended to cover the recording of mobile phone conversations that related to client orders and transactions by regulated firms.