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Should you auto-record your phone calls?

Update – see this followup post. I’ve decided the answer is “Yes, you should”.

There’s no easy way to say this – a few weeks ago, I’ve installed the Automatic Call Recorder Android app, and have been automatically recording all incoming and outgoing calls to my mobile. I actually wanted to write this post as a fair warning to my friends, and to explain why I’m doing it.

However, now that I’m writing the post … I’m not sure the reasons for doing it are enough to justify “the creepiness factor”.

My reasons for doing this were:

  1. In dealing with “potentially evil 3rd parties” (e.g. banks, cellular companies, handymen & technicians and other organizations or professionals that sometime try to cheat the consumer), it’s useful to have a record of conversation. If that 3rd party tries to go back on their word, you’ll have a recording.
  2. I have a terrible memory. It’s useful to be able to go back to a particular call and hear again, in case you need some crucial detail.
  3. It’s so easy, so why not?

BTW, as far as I know, there is no legal issue here – you’re allowed to record conversations that you are a part of – it’s not considered to be eavesdropping (but IANAL).


Now, that I look at the above list … it’s not really convincing. Reason #1 is quite useful, but does it really mean it’s ok to record everything? I could take the small effort and start recording only when there’s a potentially relevant phonecall. I think the main reason I chose to auto-record all my calls is because it’s so damn easy, and I couldn’t find a good enough reason not to do it.

When I give it a second thought now … I think the creepiness factor is just a bit too much. I personally don’t really mind if people record their phone calls with me, but I’m not everyone … and other people might have different sensitivities than me.

As technology gets more miniature and prevalent, these kind of dilemmas will show up more and more. In the future, it’s likely that all shreds of personal privacy will be stripped away anyway … but I can do my bit and not contribute to this wholesale invasion of privacy. Perhaps, like Google Chat History, automatic call recording will become the norm, and when you want to go off the record, you’ll need to explicitly ask for it (and trust the other participant in the call to honor your request).

Anyway as for me – right now I disabled the “auto record everything” setting, and will only record conversations with “potentially evil 3rd parties” – I will not record conversations with my friends, and if I change my mind for any reason, I’ll post here before doing that.

What do you think? Would you auto-record every phone call? Do you think that someone doing this is doing something wrong?

P.S. the first thing my wife said once I installed the app – “you had better not record phone calls with me”, so I added her to the app’s “ignore list”. I think her concerns are valid and some of you might share them, and this is why I’m stopping to use it wholesale.


  1. Ariel:

    From my understanding, you may record any conversation as long as at least one participant is aware and willing, so if that participant is you, you’re cool. At least in Israel.

    I record all the calls on my phone. Every once in a while I copy them off my phone and encrypt them just to make sure phone calls don’t get out of hand. It’s simply too useful.

    Besides, I’m not deluding myself that my communications are untampered, so I might as well have a copy myself. Anyone having a problem with that has a problem inherent with technology.

  2. ripper234:

    @Ariel – hmm, so you’re making me think I’m not the crazy one for wanting to record everything. Now I actually wonder how many of my friends have been recording our calls in the last few years and just haven’t said anything about it 🙂

    Have you actually found this useful? How often? Can you give a few examples?

  3. Sagie Davidovich:

    @Ariel, @ripper234, I believe that when call recording, or even ambient passive recording is combined with speech recognition and textual indexing and search capabilities, it does bring us one step closer to an extension of our memories. We have all the technology to build it today. Is anyone aware of such a solution?

  4. ripper234:

    @Sagie – I’m not aware of a complete solution including indexing, but it should be easier to build. Today the app can upload the files to Dropbox, it should be easy enough to monitor and process the uploaded files.

  5. ponetium:

    I think that although it may be good to record calls of 3rd parties, recording regular phone calls can be a little…well, crippy. I believe that sometimes, recording calls can be nice, for listening to them years later, like photographs in a photobook, but sometimes people can use such things against you. I have mixed feelings about the idea, and I don;t really know what to say for or against this…

  6. ripper234:

    It’s this exact undefined “creepiness factor” which made me choose to stop recording, and to post this in the first place. I think that if you choose to record all phone calls, the very least is you can let your friends know about it.

    But we all need to prepare for the future – such recordings will be everywhere, not just audio but video as well … perhaps someday our thought patterns also.

  7. Dan Dascalescu:

    In California, you need consent from both parties before recording a call.

  8. ripper234:

    Interesting, thanks for the link.

    I believe the direction the world is heading is such that everyone will accept everything they do to be recorded, and eventually such laws will become irrelevant, unenforceable and be changed to fit the times.

  9. A Quantum Immortal » Well, that didn’t last long:

    […] a month ago I blogged about whether I should auto-record phone calls or not, and decided not to automatically record […]

  10. ripper234:

    Well, only a month after publishing this post, I decided that yes, I need to auto-record calls. Sad but true.