Assuming a two-party consent state.

If a company notifies you that all calls are (or may be) being recorded, can you then record your conversation with the customer service representative without notification?

Rationale: notification has already been served and there can be no assumption of privacy on the CSR's part.

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    Is their notification "are being recorded", or is it "may be recorded"?
    – user6726
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 17:21
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    That's an interesting point. Does it make a difference? A good answer would incorporate whether it does.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 17:26
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    It could. The rationale would be that if A says "may" but knows it is not being recorded (on their side), they might conclude that since B hasn't likewise notified, then A can "know" that the conversation is not being recorded. This is an interesting case-law research question.
    – user6726
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 17:29
  • 1
    The company may know but the individuals CSRs may not know if their particular call is being recorded "for quality and training purposes." Panoptical management would dictate that you don't tell the CSR when they are being monitored so that they assume it is constant.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 21:03
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    One meaning of the word "may" is expresses a possibility. Another meaning of "may" is to give permission. I've always assumed that "This call may be recorded" meant "You have our permission to record this call". However, I'm not a lawyer.
    – James
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 14:04

5 Answers 5


It depends on how the law is worded. CA Penal Code 632 says:

(a) A person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, uses an electronic amplifying or recording device to eavesdrop upon or record the confidential communication, whether the communication is carried on among the parties in the presence of one another or by means of a telegraph, telephone, or other device, except a radio, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) per violation, or imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment. If the person has previously been convicted of a violation of this section or Section 631, 632.5, 632.6, 632.7, or 636, the person shall be punished by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000) per violation, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(c) For the purposes of this section, “confidential communication” means any communication carried on in circumstances as may reasonably indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties thereto, but excludes [...] any other circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded.

[emphasis added]

If you're told that a conversation may be recorded, then you can reasonably expect that the conversation may be recorded, so the California law would not apply to it.

A further issue is interpretation of "may". It is ambiguous as to whether it means "might" or "can". If the other party says "This call may be recorded", and "may" is interpreted as "can", then the other party has consented to the call being recorded. A case where the passive voice could have significant consequences; if they were instead to say "We may record this phone call", then, depending on the state law, things might be different.

  • WA State too: "(3) Where consent by all parties is needed pursuant to this chapter, consent shall be considered obtained whenever one party has announced to all other parties engaged in the communication or conversation, in any reasonably effective manner, that such communication or conversation is about to be recorded or transmitted: PROVIDED, That if the conversation is to be recorded that said announcement shall also be recorded." RCW 9.73.030
    – Carl G
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 18:21
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    @CarlG That seems a bit like a Cath-2, since you can't treat the parties as consenting until you make the announcement, and you can't record it unless you make the announcement after you start recording. Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 18:29
  • @Accumulation it is not a catch-22 for automated recordings (e.g. customer service hotlines) because I just hang up and call back with recording started after I hear it the first time. For announcements that are not automated, one could ask the announcer to repeat themself after enabling recording. Or one could announce themself that they have just started recording.
    – Carl G
    Commented Dec 25, 2020 at 11:06

No. Logically, your consent to their recording is not the same as their consent to your recording. It's a question of who has the right to make a copy. If you don't want them to record you, stop talking as otherwise you have given implied consent. If they don't want you to record them, you first have to tell them you're recording, so as to obtain [or infer] the necessary consent.

(Expanded discussion) By comparison, if you're sitting face-to-face and whip out your recorder when they whip out theirs, that's clearly not a "secret" recording by either of you. If, however, your recorder is hidden in your purse, and not all parties consent to being recorded, that would be a felony in some states. By analog, unless the CSR in the OP's scenario knows of the second recording being made by someone else on the line, making it would almost certainly be a violation.

Sample of such a law: MA General Law c. 272 s. 99, in part:

(B)(4) The term ''interception'' means to secretly hear, secretly record, or aid another to secretly hear or secretly record the contents of any wire or oral communication through the use of any intercepting device by any person other than a person given prior authority by all parties to such communication;

(B)(3) The term ''intercepting device'' means any device or apparatus which is capable of transmitting, receiving, amplifying, or recording a wire or oral communication... (not including hearing aids or telephone instruments provided by or being used by a common carrier).

There are limited exemptions for authorized law enforcement actions, among others not directly relevant here.

  • 1
    No, I don't know of any such case report. When laws are clearly written there may be no need to sue (everyone "agrees" what it means), let alone appeal, so there may never be any case finding that the obvious and natural interpretation is correct.
    – Upnorth
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 19:58
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    True, but the two party laws are not written to require express consent from all parties: a 1-party announcement suffices to defeat the expectation of privacy. Since you're suggesting that it takes express consent from all parties even in the face of a recording announcement, I thought you had some specific case law that supported that. See the OPs last sentence.
    – user6726
    Commented Aug 10, 2017 at 20:26
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    I certainly didn't mean to suggest "that it takes express consent from all parties". I'm saying that the fact that you consent to their recording does not automatically mean they consent to yours and the law requires "consent of all parties" for EACH recording to be legal.
    – Upnorth
    Commented Aug 11, 2017 at 15:32
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    @user6726, that is a misstatement of the law. In a 1-party consent jurisdiction, there is no requirement that any party make an announcement because the individual making the recording counts as a party. Because the party making the recording is aware he or she is making the recording, one party to the conversation has consented. At the same time, it's an almost uniform fact across jurisdictions that recording a conversation to which you are not a party and have not received consent from at least one of the parties is illegal.
    – A.fm.
    Commented Feb 5, 2019 at 3:00
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    "Logically, your consent to their recording is not the same as their consent to your recording." actually i think logically the consent is the same. how can you claim "no fair" when I record you, if you start off by telling me you might record me?
    – Andy
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 22:56

Yes. The way the declaration is phrased is to give you notice that they are consenting to recording... your consent from that point on is by remaining on the phone to partake in the recorded conversation. Since they already consent to recorded calls (namely their own) they are assuming that if you did not consent, you would hang up or not respond. Additionally, since many of the calls are recorded for "quality and training purposes" the quality part includes using the specific caller's behavior on the phone with the customers for disciplinary actions if so needed... and they would have to consent to that recording as well.


Yes. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy if the call starts out with a message indicating that the conversation is not private.

  • 1
    Do you have any case law that support your conclusion? There's a difference between a reasonable expectation, and actual knowledge of what the statutes and courts say.
    – user6726
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 22:27
  • Reasonable expectation of privacy is a Fourth Amendment analysis and relates to government actions. Requirements for notification come from state-level statutes.
    – K-C
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 23:44
  • This answer is correct. In most states' statutes, as long as one party consents then the conversation may be recorded. Whether such a recording is admissible in court may be spread online is another matter. Commented May 13, 2017 at 0:36
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    The question explicitly stipulates a two party consent state (otherwise it'd be moot).
    – RoboKaren
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 6:02
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    @KC, it also applies to privacy from fellow citizens. Private citizens have been successfully protected against 1st amendment encroachments based on their having supposedly violated the privacy of fellow citizens. E.g., photographing people through their windows, upskirt, etc.
    – JJBee
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 15:50

For a conversation between two parties, I thought the key question was whether or not both parties have a reasonable expectation that the conversation may be recorded. If one of the parties obtains permission of the other party to record the conversation, or simply informs the other party that the conversation may be recorded, then should logically establish that there can be no expectation by either party that the conversation will not be recorded. Thus, even in a two-party consent state, it would seem that as long as one of the two parties obtains consent to record or notifies that they may record the conversation, then the expectation of privacy has been eliminated and no further consent should be required. Make sense?

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