Recorder Shock: Living with automatic recording

What do you do when you suddenly hear an announcement that “this meeting is being recorded”? Do you hang up, hang on, or launch into a rant about not being told before? With the steep rise in automatic recording, especially driven by “sales enablement” companies who claim to be able to detect the mood of customers and the performance of sale staff, it is becoming an everyday dilemma.

The Legal Position

Leaving the moral question aside for one moment, what is the actual legal requirement to tell people that they are being recorded? Honestly, you need a truck full of lawyers to answer that properly, but the answer is “it depends”. In the UK, for example, as well as in three quarters of all American states, all you require is “one party” consent. This means that only one person who is being recorded needs to know that the recording is taking place: And that person can be you.

In other jurisdictions, you need the slightly misleadingly named “two party” consent, which means all parties to the call (bearing in mind that these days, there are often many people on a Zoom or Teams call) need to consent. Some countries and states take this very seriously. California is notoriously strict about this, with severe criminal penalties, and it is happy to extend those penalties to calls that originate in “one party” consent states, even though federal law only requires one party to consent to the recording.

What does consent look like?

But then, what is “consent”? It seems that some providers have got very worried, and have gone very over the top. Zoom, who were criticised early in the pandemic for somewhat lax security practices, used to put a discrete “Rec” in red in the top left, to show that recording was happening. Now, you get everything short of a full marching band announcing that you are being recorded, including an incredibly annoying disclaimer that you have to click every time saying you have “Got it”!


In the recent Smith v LoanMe, Inc case the California Supreme Court suggests that the little “Rec” icon is enough, or just a background bleep to notify people they are being recorded (which is a long standing industry convention, one you can turn on in the Myna Desktop Recorder)

What about in the real world?

But what about the practical aspects?  A lot of companies now have some sort of mandatory recording, be it for regulatory purposes (such as was recently reinforced by the UK Financial Conduct Authority in Market Watch 66), or increasingly for sales monitoring.  If you are that sales rep, what do you do?  I know, having sat on some of those calls with partners who use this technology, that people can get pretty upset, especially when you use a third-party company that dials into a customer’s meeting!


It may seem obvious, but if you are using a service that is going to shout about the users being recorded, you really need to tell people up front, and pretty explicitly.  And in many cases, the tools don’t really exist.  If, like me, you use a plugin to schedule meetings, you can often specify text that goes out that warns the customer.

But if you don’t, make sure that you put something in every email you send setting up the meeting. Not everyone reads the full detail of their meeting requests, so a simple additional email telling people that you record (and often that as it is company policy, it can’t be turned off!) is a good idea.

Where next?

The world of work is going to be a lot more recorded than it is now, as people start to realise the productivity benefits of recording meetings, and letting a machine transcribe what was said, so that it is searchable after, and even extract important information to let you review the meeting more easily. Keeping recordings for your own use will become as common as storing email for the long term, and this will probably give rise to a lot more “one party” recording where that is legal.

Hopefully this will mean that we get more used to recording, and it becomes less of an issue for people, and that the blasted-out warnings become a lot more subtle than they are now, not making recording seem like such an aberration, but instead something to be embraced as yet another technology that can make our lives easier.

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