Cyberclinic: Is it legal to record your phone calls? If so, how can I do it?
While citizens of the US have to keep tabs on various state-by-state laws on recording their telephone conversations, it's relatively simple in the UK: we are allowed to do so, for our own personal use, without telling the other party.
The Information Commissioner's office confirms that this also covers you if you want to record a complaint call to a business and legally keep proof of their response. But, in general, if such recordings are going to be played to a third party - or, indeed, released on a hilarious compilation album of prank phone-calls - you need to have the consent of the other person.
There's a range of ways of getting phone calls archived. One reader, Kim Davison, sticks to tried and tested technology. She writes: "I've always used a tape recorder connected to a microphone stuck to the headset, either an old-fashioned induction mic, or an earphone-style one like the Olympus TP-7. They haven't failed me yet."
Stores that sell "spy equipment" such as covert video surveillance systems and voice-stress analysers will still try to sell you a costly specialist tape recorder that plugs directly into your phone socket, but modern technology is rendering all these solutions somewhat obsolete. Most mobile phones have voice recorders built in, but until recently they've only been able to record what you dictate rather than your phone conversations. But many smartphones that run on Windows software now include conversation recorders; Graham O'Shaughnessy recommends a small application, CallRecorder Pro, for most recent Nokias (the so-called "series 60 Symbian phones" ). "It costs £7.50, and it just records a WAV file of any conversation to your phone. The only drawback is that it beeps irritatingly throughout the call."
If you're geared up to making VOIP calls via your computer, there are a couple of simple options: PC users can go to hotrecorder.com and pay $15 (£7.40) for some recording software that works in tandem with Skype, while Mac owners can pay the same price for Ecamm's Call Recorder.
But, for a hassle-free pay-as-you-go option, there's a service called Rectel. First dial 0871 900 9000. You'll be given a PIN (make a note of it) and then asked to dial the number you want to call. After you've finished your chat, go to www.rectel.co.uk , enter your phone number and PIN, and you can download that call in a range of audio formats. While fantastically convenient, calls to landlines do cost 10p per minute, and mobiles and international calls have to be made via an alternative, pricier access number (see their website for details).