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Is legal consent needed to record audio & video?


Is legal consent needed to record audio & video? The short answer to that question is yes. But there are a number of caveats and exceptions. For the long answer, keep reading.

Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000, it is perfectly lawful to record conversations in the UK without permission provided that the recording is intended for personal use only. However things get more complicated if the information is to be shared with other parties, in which case one must seek consent from everyone in the conversation.

What about phone calls?

It’s a similar principle. Businesses and other organisations are allowed to record phone conversations, whether for training, marketing or research purposes, without informing you first. The obligation to seek your permission to record comes in if the recording is to be passed onto another party. Business recording calls for third party use must inform the customer of the recording and its purpose, and ask for consent. 

Under the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, businesses can record calls without consent for the following reasons:

  • As proof of a transaction
  • To ensure compliance with regulatory procedures
  • To stop crime with regards telecom systems and to ensure they operate effectively
  • To ensure quality standards with regards to national security interests

Can you record videos in public places in the UK?

This essentially depends on two things.

  • The location. There are many places where people can wander freely which are considered “public”, however their ownership may in fact be private. This includes shopping centres and airports. In these places it’s the owner who has the power to set rules which can differ from the law. In truly public spaces such as parks, squares and streets you are in theory allowed to film without permission.
  • Expectation of privacy. This can be a grey area. In many cases expectation of privacy is pretty obvious, for example in one’s own home. In other places you have to consider what that person is doing. For example two people in a restaurant talking to each other are technically in a public place (with caveats – see above), the context means they have an expectation of privacy. There is one exception to this rule called public interest. Public interest is a defence used by journalists to record private conversations because they contain something of concern to the public, for example exposure of a scandal, corruption in public office or other wrongdoing by someone of high status.

Can you publish videos recorded in public places?

Yes, as long there wasn’t any expectation of privacy when you recorded the video and that it was in a public place. The exception again is the release of journalistic material which can be proven to be in the public interest (a high profile example of this was footage of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock breaching lockdown rules with a colleague in his office in 2021).

One last thought

If you record calls for market research or training purposes and seek consent from those recorded, there is of course nothing to stop you getting a transcript of it. In fact, the customer has a right to request a transcript of a call they know is being recorded. For reliable and competitive transcription service check out our packages at JUST transcription.


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