Q:

Is phone tapping legal?

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Quick Answer

As of 2015, law enforcement agents can legally tap phone conversations if they have an order from a judge, says FindLaw. Judges order wiretaps when they have probable cause to believe that information about criminal activity is obtainable. Police don't need a judge's order to obtain a list of all numbers that call a particular phone, or all numbers called from a phone. It's usually legal for officials to monitor phone conversations in prison.

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Full Answer

Law enforcement officials may legally eavesdrop on phone conversations without a court order if at least one party consents, according to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The law allows phone company personnel to monitor conversations to provide proper service and quality, or to protect customers against theft and harassment. Employers can legally monitor and record conversations on company phones.

Federal wiretap laws apply to electronic, wire and oral communications, explains Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Silent video footage is not covered under the law, so it may not be illegal for a third party to access someone's webcam. Internet telephony services such as Skype are also exempt from federal laws prohibiting phone taps. Federal law allows the recording of phone calls if at least one party consents, but 12 states require the consent of all parties on the call. Wiretap laws may not apply to clearly unlawful conversations or emergency situations.

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