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Use Of Smartphone Voice Memo App Can Be a Wiretap Violation

by | Apr 19, 2016 | General Law, Industry News

Permission To Record Must Be Granted First

Use Of Smartphone Voice Memo App Can Be A Wiretap Violation

The Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the use of the voice memo app on a smartphone to record a conversation, without the permission of the participants in the conversation, is a violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act.

Section 5703 of the Wiretap Act provides that “a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if he … intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, electronic or oral communication.” 18 Pa.C.S. § 5703(1). Com. v. Smith, 2016 PA Super 43 (Feb. 19, 2016).

In the case, Talbot S. Smith was charged with interception of oral communications after he surreptitiously recorded a conversation with his former boss using a “voice memo” application (“app”) on his smartphone. On appeal, the Commonwealth argued that the trial court erred in concluding that Smith’s use of the app on his smartphone did not constitute use of a “device” to intercept communications under the statute. The Superior Court reversed the ruling of the trial court, deciding that recording a conversation with a smartphone app without consent is a violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act.


Before turning on the voice memo app or any other device capable of recording oral communications, you need the permission of all the participants in the oral communications. If you have questions about how this ruling impacts you or your business, contact us.