Is it legal to secretly record a conversation between two people?
If you live in a “one party consent” jurisdiction, the answer could be yes. While actual legal cases are unique and stand on their specific facts, “one party consent” in Canada (and parts of the United States) generally states that it could be lawful for one person to secretly record a conversation as long as the person recording:
A growing problem
Google “secret recording” and you’ll be inundated with the very latest articles in which powerful, important people are fighting reputational damage, and sometimes legal issues, because their private, unguarded comments somehow went public. The most high profile among them include Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, LA Laker Nick Young and anesthesiologist Tiffany Ingham.
“People who want to intentionally inflict damage on a company have a faster and more destructive option than posting anonymous reviews to sites like Yelp, Glassdoor or RateMDs."
True, some of these secret recordings were obtained outside of the one party consent law and some of these recordings may themselves be illegal, but that’s beside the point. Whether lawfully or unlawfully obtained, once public, a secret recording of someone’s colourful or offensive words can cause a mountain of damage.
But why should I care, I’m not a celebrity?
Celebrities or politicians aren’t the only ones who must watch their private words – now almost anyone is a fair target for the recorded takedown. I recently worked with a client who was secretly recorded by a disgruntled former employee in an effort to sabotage his business. The lesson he has learned is patently obvious to us– the mic is always on, or to quote my grandmother, mind your Ps and Qs.
Yelp can’t even compare
Remember we live in the age of internet trolls. People who want to intentionally inflict damage on a company have a faster and more destructive option than posting anonymous reviews to sites like Yelp, Glassdoor or RateMDs.com. Cell phones make it incredibly easy to record, upload and share the damning words of a front desk representative, call centre employee or a foot-in-mouth prone CEO.
Seeing or hearing the hurtful comments from the poorly-behaved company representative can be more crippling than a negative review posted to Yelp by someone with the handle Dealhound172. Such sounds and images are gold to a hungry news media.
Small and medium-sized business owners: take action
Want to focus on the bottom line instead of avoiding hitting rock bottom? Savvy business owners should take the time to protect their business. Here are five great ways to get started: