Transparency is Key to Avoiding Call Recording Grey Areas

Call Recording Featured Article

Transparency is Key to Avoiding Call Recording Grey Areas

August 03, 2017

The legality around call recording can be a murky area. Different states have different rules, and if you record someone without their knowledge there’s a good chance you can get in some pretty serious trouble. That’s why all customer service interactions via phone start with the automated message notifying customers that the call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.

But what happens if you’re recording a conversation without realizing it? Who’s at fault then? Or, even worse, what if an office phone is largely believed to be unmonitored, but a few people know that it is, in fact, recording all calls? Are the few in the know guilty of breaking the law for not notifying employees that their conversations would be recorded? Or does is not matter, because the phone is owned by the company and therefore no conversation that occurs is private?

Like I said, these are some pretty murky waters. And, ironically enough, the people involved are the ones who should be solving cases like this, not taking part in them. The Grand Rapids Police department is in the middle of a hot debate due to the above scenario.

In early December 2016, the Grand Rapids Police internal investigators discovered that a phone line marked “non-recorded” had in fact been recording since 2010. However, they didn’t turn the function off once they’d made that realization. Instead, they sent out a reminder of the city's computer policy, which states that employees have no right to privacy when using city phones or computers.

Since everyone else in the police department believed the phone to be unmonitored, several suspicious calls took place on it. For instance, conversations have been recorded between three officers that were investigating a late-night crash by former Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Kuiper on Nov. 19, 2016. After investigating the crash, Officer Adam Ickes called his boss, Lt. Matthew Janiskee, to report that he believed Kuiper was intoxicated at the time of the crash. However, he also admitted to not giving Kuiper a breath test. After that admission, Janiskee told Ickes  to call back on the unmonitored extension so that they could discuss further.

By the end of that discussion, it was decided that another officer who had joined the call, Sgt. Tom Warwick, would drive Kuiper home. Kuiper did not receive a citation for driving under the influence. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what went on in that call. They switched to the supposedly unmonitored line so they could discuss covering up for Kuiper, and then proceeded to do so. Little did they know that that conversation was actually being recorded.

The question is, though, can that recorded conversation be used against them in court? They believed the phone to be unmonitored and therefore acted accordingly. Investigators knew that the line was being recorded, and chose not to disclose that information to the rest of the staff. However, they did send out a reminder saying that employees were not entitled to privacy when using company equipment.

You can make an argument for either side—and that’s exactly what’s happening in court right now—but there’s no arguing that all of this could have been avoided with a bit of transparency. Companies need to be clear when it comes to call recording. Frequently remind employees that their activity is being monitored, and even have automated messaged to notify employees and customers alike that all calls are being recorded. That’s the only sure-fire way to ensure that everyone knows where they stand, and to avoid legal battles. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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