1st Amendment News

Recording a person without their knowledge

Recording a person without their knowledge

Q: We wish to record a speaker and would rather not alert the him that he is being videotaped and/or audiotaped.  He is more likely to make more derogatory comments if he is unaware.  In your opinion, are we breaking any laws or causing problems for using the audio and/or videotapes to prove our case to the City Attorneys involved or in court later if we do not request permission and go ahead to audio/videotape furtively?

A: The California Supreme Court has held that in a place “to which the general public does not have unfettered access,” the people there “may enjoy a limited, but legitimate, expectation that their conversations and other interactions will not be secretly videotaped …, even though those conversations may not have been completely private from the participants” in attendance. Sanders v. ABC, 20 Cal. 4th 907, 911, 915 (1999) (“a person may reasonably expect privacy against the electronic recording of a communication even though he or she had no reasonable expectation as to confidentiality of the communication’s contents”).

It is unclear whether the fact the non-profit charges to attend means it does not allow unfettered access to the general public.  Similarly, “[w]hether a reasonable expectation of privacy is violated by such recording depends on the exact nature of the conduct and all the surrounding circumstances,” id., and it is therefore difficult to predict how the courts would view the taping you propose.

If using hidden microphones and/or camera to tape without consent is unlawful under the circumstances, you would be unable to use the tape as evidence and you could be charged with a crime and sued.  Cal. Penal Code § 632.   The investigative firm may be concerned because it could also be sued, or charged with a crime, if the taping was unlawful.  See Ribas v. Clark, 38 Cal. 3d 355, 361-62 (1985) (third party who performs wiretap at the request of one party to a conversation, but without consent of the other, may be liable under related provisions of Penal Code § 631).

Your contributions make our work possible.
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

1 Awesome Comments So Far

Don't be a stranger, join the discussion by leaving your own comment
  1. RCN
    January 8, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    My immediate supervisor had an operator tape me when I was a manager. He had no reason to believe that I would say anything wrong, but I did not know it was him. I just realized that I was being tape recorded. So, I sent smoke (B.S.) up the pipe, which was recomended by my Dale Carnegie Management Instructor, and found where the smoke came out.

    I was stunned to find out that my Vice President put him up to it! This led from my being on the fast track to being put on ice, and I quit just before being vested (I actually put in more than ten years, but their records do not show that I worked for a different department of this bank beforehand). Years later, I found that he made a practice of doing this with everyone!. Before I left, I had a salesman offer me a Volvo to push his product. NO, it has nothing to do with me. I later found that he was recording everyone, and that everyone was miserable. Right after I kicked the salesman out of the office, I realized that he was most likely also asked to bring in a tape recorder. A manager named Joe told me that he finally stole every tape recorder he could find. This clown, who should have never been a V.P., was finally walked out of the building for mis-condcust, but it was too late for his superiors.

    I met an attorney when my sister recently died, and he said that the company owes me millions, and that no statute of limitations applies here. The guy who did the recording belongs in a federal prison, too, and he wants to take this on. But, I do not sue people or companies. My business is still thriving, too. I recently learned that one of the most powerful people in the city who was the V.P. of a local contractior, hated this guy, and he had never hated anyone before. A multi-millionaire and a really nice guy, he also played a roll in getting everyone above this clown fired, which was not at all fair, in my opinion. They did not know what was going on. They were among the best in their fields, too.

    He still ruined my life. I would be long ago retired.

  2. RCN
    January 8, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    My immediate supervisor had an operator tape me when I was a manager. He had no reason to believe that I would say anything wrong, but I did not know it was him. I just realized that I was being tape recorded. So, I sent smoke (B.S.) up the pipe, which was recomended by my Dale Carnegie Management Instructor, and found where the smoke came out.

    I was stunned to find out that my Vice President put him up to it! This led from my being on the fast track to being put on ice, and I quit just before being vested (I actually put in more than ten years, but their records do not show that I worked for a different department of this bank beforehand). Years later, I found that he made a practice of doing this with everyone!. Before I left, I had a salesman offer me a Volvo to push his product. NO, it has nothing to do with me. I later found that he was recording everyone, and that everyone was miserable. Right after I kicked the salesman out of the office, I realized that he was most likely also asked to bring in a tape recorder. A manager named Joe told me that he finally stole every tape recorder he could find. This clown, who should have never been a V.P., was finally walked out of the building for mis-condcust, but it was too late for his superiors.

    I met an attorney when my sister recently died, and he said that the company owes me millions, and that no statute of limitations applies here. The guy who did the recording belongs in a federal prison, too, and he wants to take this on. But, I do not sue people or companies. My business is still thriving, too. I recently learned that one of the most powerful people in the city who was the V.P. of a local contractior, hated this guy, and he had never hated anyone before. A multi-millionaire and a really nice guy, he also played a roll in getting everyone above this clown fired, which was not at all fair, in my opinion. They did not know what was going on. They were among the best in their fields, too.

    He still ruined my life. I would be long ago retired.