Recording My Own Phone Conversations

Lately I’ve noticed an increasing number of companies recording my conversation “for quality assurance.” In some cases like calls to my broker this is reasonable, but turnabout’s fair play; and perhaps a really good idea in the face of company’s like Verizon that refuse to honor their agreements without a court order. So here are my questions:

  1. Technically, what sort of setup do I need that I can easily plug into my phone and record a conversation if I want to?
  2. What are the legalities involved here? (If it matters, I live in Kings County, New York.) I recall that in at least one jurisdiction where I used to live, recording a phone conversation required both parties’ consent, and a recorder that beeped every 15 seconds to remind the parties’ that they were being recorded. However perhaps this has changed, doesn’t apply to interstate calls, or is just being ignored by most companies today?

In case it’s relevant, my main phone line is a Vonage line that goes over the Internet. I don’t use my cell phone or non-internet land lines very much these days.

5 Responses to “Recording My Own Phone Conversations”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    Like most states, New York State is a “one-party-consent law” state, so you can always record your own in-state calls either openly or surreptitiously, since only one participant’s consent is needed. The beep requirement is gone everywhere.

    In interstate calls, it’s important to check this state-by-state summary, because in interstate calls, both states’ laws apply, and you need to apply the most stringent applicable law. For example, when speaking to someone in California (an “all-party-consent law” state), you must get their permission to record the call, or risk having to pony up $5000 in statutory damages (or three times the actual damages, whichever is greater). In general, announcing your intent to record and letting the other party hang up if they don’t like it is sufficient in all states: continued participation implies consent.

    The all-party-consent law states are: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Washington. In Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Missisippi, and probably New Mexico as well, a participant may record but a non-participant may not, even with consent. In Vermont the law is unsettled.

    I am not a lawyer; this is not legal advice; laws change; errors happen.

  2. J Donald Says:

    Equipment – Radio Shack used to sell a little phone mic that sticks to your handset with a suction-cup. It uses inductance to pick up from the earpiece. This seems to work a little better on old-fashioned handsets that use a loudspeaker-type earpiece (with a coil of wire). These days, every phone seems to have a piezo element for a headset, and these don’t induce current nearly as strongly as the old-fashioned type phones. If RS doesn’t sell this anymore, you can get it at

    One other tip – don’t use a cordless phone – they create all kinds of extraneous noise (buzzes, whistles, bleeps) that will wreck your recording.

    Finally, here’s a comprehensive article on the whole subject (no guarantees as to accuracy):

  3. Doug Simpkinson Says:

    Radio Shack has a thing that plugs into a handset jack (you know, on a corded phone) and records or plays onto the phone line.

  4. B. Jones Says:

    This page is a great resource:

    I remembered reading it in the past year or so, and sure enough, it’s linked from

    You’re a great tour guide.

  5. Chris Tomkinson Says:

    The PLA has a nice little writeup on recording telephone calls that goes a little into the law too. They claim that even if your state laws say it’s okay, the federal laws can still work against you. Or if you’re calling across state lines, either state law could apply.

    I wonder if using a Vonage lines would allow even more state laws to apply. Since Vonage is based out of California, would California wiretapping laws apply to your conversations in other states?

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