Is It Illegal To Record Someone Without Their Consent?
Published March 9, 2021
These days, most people rely on their gadgets and technology so much that they feel the need to continually report what they see in real life on their social media accounts. The topic of consent has been a sensitive issue for a long time. Until today, some people just can’t seem to understand the idea of it. The battle between whether or not it is illegal to record someone without their consent is one of the many issues revolving around the topic. Is it illegal to record someone without gaining their consent? Or is recording someone only unlawful when the situation does not necessarily call for it? Let’s discuss the law and logic behind all of this.
The Law Against Intercepting Communications
The Federal Wiretap Act is a law protecting an individual’s human rights when it comes to the privacy of their communication with others. Wiretapping is somewhat similar to having a third party listen in on a private conversation. There is a violation of people’s human rights once their privacy is disturbed, and they should take legal action to make things right. The law states that the act of using any content from a non-consented recording is considered illegal. The person committing such a crime would be held punishable and face the consequences that the law carries. There are only a total of two situations that are an exception to this law.
Who Does This Law Exempt?
Phone Service Providers
Service providers of telephones and mobile phones have the right to record conversations. Phone service companies record calls to monitor incoming and outgoing messages of their clients. However, this is only applicable provided that the service company has a valid court order. Recording calls is also legal for phone service companies when the call addresses technical issues from customers who need assistance. Service providers may also wiretap into their client’s conversation to protect their company’s rights.
In situations that a person is a suspect of unlawful acts, officials are allowed to interfere with that person’s communications, given that one side of the communication gives consent to it. Some other laws require both/all sides of the communication to consent to law enforcement’s wiretapping. The scenario wherein federal officials need compliance from individuals to record their calls is called “intentional wiretapping.” Neglecting to abide by the request to consent may be taken as a defense and used against that person.
State and Federal Laws
Federal law officials take over in handling legal actions when protective state laws can not ensure people’s accordance with the Wiretap Act. In other words, the state law that fails to protect the privacy of communicating parties and instead allows the recording of their exchange would be made void by the federal law. If the situation appears to be the opposite of that scenario, where the state law protects citizen’s privacy, the state law would not be void and remain as it is. The states included in the discussion of recording with consent, with every party present, are New Hampshire, California, Michigan, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Massachusetts, Illinois, Montana, Washington, and Maryland.
Is Videotaping Others in Public Considered Illegal?
State laws addressing issues regarding videotaping are applicable depending on the situation. The Federal Wiretap Act does not cover problems regarding such matters. It is still appropriate for people to record others in public, considering that the person being recorded is not too obsessed with keeping to themselves in that setting. The federal act against wiretapping protects every person’s perception of privacy. It considers individual’s different concepts of privacy. What people do in public is not what they do in their own time, so there is no big reason to avoid being recorded.
If a person just so happens to let go of some important or confidential information and someone was recording it, it may be used against the recorded person as evidence in the court. Unconsented recordings can either come in the form of a video or a voice/audiotape. Each form varies in how heavy the punishment will be on the person who took the recording. A video with audio makes a huge difference from a video without one as it is more compelling as evidence.
Public spaces or infrastructures that discourage the use of cameras, phones, or other recording devices have the right to take legal action against individuals who refuse to follow their regulations. Federal laws are also against taking a video or picture of people engaging in sexual activity or whose body is exposed in a public area. These would include public cubicles or any other area with a certain level of expectation in privacy despite being open to most people. Failure to abide by this so-called federal Video Voyeurism Prevention Act will face punishment in prison or through monetary fines.
Punishment For Recording Without Consent
Like any other official republic acts, violations of federal and state laws on recording without consent will result in a series of consequences. Penalties may come in the form of paying a fee or serving time in prison. Recording another person without their knowledge and approval is considered a blatant act of transgression. A person who commits this crime can have a lawsuit filed against them as they have interfered with another person’s privacy and human rights. Punishment from federal law officials has a more severe infliction. The consequences of neglecting the Wiretap Act may range from a five-year prison sentence, a large fee, or worse, both.
The only reasonable scenario in which a person is allowed to record you without asking for approval is when the setting is in a public area where the standards of privacy are low. However, being in a situation that requires higher expectations of privacy, such as changing in locker rooms or taking a shower in the common shower room at a gym, does not apply to this.
In such places, when a person still records you without your consent during intimate situations, legal actions can be taken as privacy rights are then violated. People who did the act will be held criminally liable and may be reported to authorities. Always make sure that you are informed about what is appropriate and what is not to avoid your rights from being violated. Also, to avoid being held liable for the crime, always ponder the question: Is it illegal to record someone, and does the situation call for a recording in the first place?
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About The Author
Krizzia Paolyn is an SEO Specialist with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Before launching a career in SEO, she started as a content writer for various digital magazines and renowned publications. It has always been her passion to share her voice, and at the same time, to encourage other people to speak up.