Is It Illegal to Record Someone Without Their Permisson?


In a world where recording devices are everywhere, the question "Is it illegal to record someone without their permission?" has become a hot topic.

This article explores various scenarios of video recording, audio recording, and online recording of others. We'll answer common questions about legal and ethical concerns regarding situations when we or someone else hit the record button without the explicit "Okay".

Video recording people without their consent

Is it illegal to record someone without their permission?

The legality of recording someone without their knowledge depends on the laws in the specific location. In most places, it is against the law to appropriate someone's video or audio without their agreement.

Surreptitiously recording someone without their knowledge could be considered a breach of trust, especially in situations where there is an expectation of privacy, and is often punishable.

The expectation of privacy refers to an individual's belief or anticipation that their personal information, activities, or communications will not be accessed, observed, or disclosed by others without their permission or authorization.

In the United States, federal law requires one-party consent. This means that as long as one person involved in the conversation knows that it is being recorded, it is legal.

The state laws vary. The majority of local governments have become one-party consent states: for example, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, and others. However, some have adopted the two-party consent rule.

All-party consent states:

  • California;
  • Delaware;
  • Florida;
  • Maryland;
  • Massachusetts;
  • Montana;
  • Nevada;
  • New Hampshire;
  • Pennsylvania;
  • Washington.

Additionally, some states have a two-party consent rule for recordings that are made to broadcast publicly, such as radio or television shows.

In Europe, most countries have a one-party consent rule, with some exceptions like France and Germany. In other countries like India and Australia, recordings without permission are generally illegal.


  • Regardless of whether an individual is aware of the specific consent regulations in a given area, they are still responsible for adhering to those rules. In legal terms, ignorance or lack of knowledge about consent requirements is generally not considered a valid defense if someone violates these regulations.

It is crucial to be aware of the rules regarding the voice or video recording of individuals in your locality before making any attempts without authorization. If you do not abide by these laws, you could face legal consequences.

Is it illegal to film people in public without their consent?

Public settings refer to places or environments that are accessible or open to the general public. These spaces include areas such as parks, sidewalks, streets, government buildings, malls, restaurants, and other locations where people can freely enter without specific permission.

Filming people in public spaces generally is permissible as there's often no expectation of privacy in such settings. Public spaces typically allow photography or filming.

However, restrictions may apply in certain situations or locations. It's essential to be mindful of local public filming laws and regulations. They can differ based on your location, the purpose of filming, and potential implications related to privacy, harassment, or other legal concerns.

Are you allowed to record people on your property?

In real estate, private property refers to land, buildings, or structures that are owned by an individual, a family, a business, or an entity and are not owned or controlled by the government or public entities.

In most cases, you can record people on your property. However, it's important to be aware of local laws and regulations governing recording activities, especially if they involve areas where individuals might reasonably expect privacy, such as bathrooms, bedrooms, or other private spaces within your property.

If you plan to record on your property, it's advisable to inform visitors or guests about any surveillance or recording devices. This will ensure transparency and compliance with legal requirements.

Online video and audio recording

Is it illegal to voice record someone during an online meeting?

Just as with recording in-person, laws regarding recording online meetings can differ based on the location, consent of participants, and the specific platform's terms of service.

In many jurisdictions, it's legal to record online meetings if all participants provide their consent. Some regions require explicit consent from all parties involved before recording any conversation.

Reviewing the terms of service or guidelines of the platform hosting the meeting is also essential, as they might outline specific rules regarding recording. To ensure compliance with the law, it's advisable to inform all participants beforehand if you intend to record the online meeting.

Additionally, when it comes to recording video calls specifically, laws can become more complex due to the visual element involved. Some states have specific laws that cover both audio and visual recording. Others may have different standards for video recording compared to audio recording.


  • Federal laws can also apply to the recording of video calls, especially if they involve interstate communication. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) - also referred as the Wiretap Act - regulates the interception of electronic communications and may come into play regarding video call recordings.

It's crucial to be aware that laws and regulations can change over time. It's advisable to seek legal advice or consult the laws specific to your state or situation to ensure compliance before recording any video calls. Always consider the ethical implications as well as the legal aspects before recording any video call.

Can I record an online meeting without letting other participants know?

There is no definitive answer to this question. Capturing someone on audio or video without their agreement is generally illegal in most countries. However, there are certain circumstances where it may be acceptable.

For example, if you are the host of an online meeting that is open to the public or will be broadcasted online, then you may record without additionally informing the participants. In this case, it would be assumed that all participants are aware of the recording happening.

In other cases, you will need to obtain consent from everyone involved before you record the meeting.

What rules apply to the calls between states?

If your participants are in states with different recording laws, the strictest applicable law generally prevails. For instance, one participant is in a two-party consent state and another in a one-party consent state. You will need to comply with the stricter two-party consent law.

If meeting attendees are in different countries, you'll need to consider international laws and regulations regarding data privacy and recording. Regulations like the GDPR in the European Union have strict requirements for the handling and processing of personal data, including recordings.

GDPR stands for the General Data Protection Regulation. This is a comprehensive data privacy and security law in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). It provides a set of rules and guidelines concerning the collection, processing, storage, and transfer of personal data by businesses and organizations.

Finally, the platform or screen recording software being used for the video call might have its terms of service or policies regarding recording. These policies can dictate whether recording is allowed and any specific guidelines or restrictions regarding participant consent.

Others recording you without your consent

What to do if someone is secretly recording you?

If you discover that someone is secretly recording you, try to remain calm and assess the situation. Politely ask the person to stop recording you and express your discomfort with being recorded without your consent.

If the situation persists or makes you feel unsafe, consider removing yourself from the environment or seeking assistance from authorities. It's crucial to prioritize your safety and seek appropriate guidance if necessary.

What is it called when someone records you without your permission?

Intercepting a conversation without permission is referred to as "eavesdropping" or "wiretapping" and is considered a violation of privacy. Depending on the situation, this behavior could be regarded as a breach of confidentiality.

Generally speaking, eavesdropping on someone without their authorization in private spaces and situations is unlawful. This includes recording someone through an audio device, video camera, or any other type of equipment. It doesn't matter if the device is hidden or in plain view - it's still against the law.

Can I sue someone for recording me without my permission?

As stated before, in most states, recording someone without consent is forbidden. If you have been recorded without your permission, you could take legal action against the person who did it for invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or other civil actions.

However, before you file a lawsuit, there are things to consider.

  • You must demonstrate that the recording was done without your permission.
  • The law varies from state to state on what type of compensation you can seek in a lawsuit.

In some cases, a court may order the individual responsible for the recording to pay damages for invasion of privacy. This includes emotional distress or any economic losses that occurred due to the recording. You may secure a court injunction preventing additional recordings without your permission.

Additionally, if the recording was made publicly available and caused significant harm to your reputation or resulted in financial losses, you could also sue for libel or slander.

For a statement to be considered libelous, it must meet certain criteria. It has to be untrue, harmful to the person's reputation, and be made with malicious intent.

If you believe that someone has illegally recorded you without your permission, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney. They will advise you on your legal options and help ensure that your rights are protected.

Tips on how to record meetings and calls

  • Know the laws in your state. Before recording a conversation, ensure that you are familiar with the statutes in your state so that you don't breach any laws.
  • Get verbal permission. Ask the person or people you are recording for verbal permission before doing so.
  • Inform others of your intentions. Let everyone in the conversation know that you plan to record it.
  • Utilize visible recording instruments. Use visible devices, like cameras or phones, to make it clear that you are recording.
  • Use caution with public spaces. Be aware of your surroundings and use caution when recording conversations in public spaces. Other people may be present who did not give their consent to be recorded.
  • Be mindful of sensitive topics. Respect people's privacy and avoid recording conversations about sensitive topics without their permission.
  • Avoid using recordings for malicious purposes. Do not use recordings for malicious purposes, such as blackmail or coercion.
  • Store recordings securely. If you have to store recordings for legal reasons, ensure that no one else has access to them without permission.

Advice to ensure your own privacy

Here are some tips to ensure you're not recorded without your permission in online settings:

  • Check privacy settings. Regularly review and adjust privacy settings on social media, video conferencing tools, and other online platforms to control who can record or view your content.
  • Use secure connections. Ensure you're using trusted connections when participating in online meetings or discussions. Avoid accessing sensitive information over public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks.
  • Enable meeting controls. If you're hosting or participating in online meetings, familiarize yourself with the meeting controls provided by the platform. Use features such as host controls, participant permissions, and recording settings to manage privacy effectively.
  • Disable webcam and microphone. When not actively using your webcam or microphone during online interactions, consider disabling them to prevent unauthorized recording or eavesdropping.
  • Be mindful of screen sharing. Exercise caution when sharing your screen during online meetings or presentations. Avoid displaying sensitive or personal information that you wouldn't want others to record or capture.
  • Use watermarking. Consider adding watermarks or copyright notices to your content to deter unauthorized recording or distribution. This can help identify the source of the content and discourage unauthorized use.
  • Monitor participant list. Keep an eye on the participant list during online meetings or events. If you notice unfamiliar or unauthorized participants, take action to address the situation and ensure your privacy is protected.
  • Educate participants. When hosting online events or meetings, inform participants about recording policies and expectations regarding privacy. Encourage open communication and respect for each other's privacy rights.
  • Report violations. If you suspect someone is recording your online interactions without permission, report the incident to the platform's administrators or moderators. Provide evidence and details to support your claim and take appropriate action to protect your privacy.


In conclusion, the legality of recording someone without consent varies based on several factors, including location, laws, and the nature of the situation.

Recording in public spaces where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy might be legal in some jurisdictions. However, laws regarding recording conversations, particularly in private settings or online meetings, often require consent from all parties involved.

If you suspect you've been secretly recorded, consider seeking legal advice, documenting any evidence, and discussing your concerns with relevant authorities.

Understanding the laws in your area and obtaining consent before recording others can help avoid potential legal and ethical issues surrounding unauthorized recordings.

Alexandra Meyer

Editor-in-Chief at Icecream Apps

With experience spanning over several years, Alexandra Meyer holds the esteemed position of editor-in-chief at Icecream Apps. Originally involved in the website's establishment in 2014, Alexandra now ensures the maintenance of the company's exceptional content standards across their various projects. Specializing in technology, software, online services, and human resources, she has extensively written and edited numerous articles on these subjects.
7 min read
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